Film In 140: A New Online Panel for Filmmakers

I've been dabbling in film in some way or another for the last 16 years, ever since I bought a word processor (couldn't afford a computer at the time) and picked up my first screenwriting book to start teaching myself proper screenplay formatting. In that time I've learned a lot, but I'll admit that quite a bit of it was never going to apply to me at the level I was at. And for the types of stories I wanted to tell, it probably never would.

Now that it's 2010 what would I tell the me of 1994-1995? That me that wanted to be part of the indie film boom?

I'd tell him that the boom he's seeing in the 1990s will soon reveal itself as a mixed bag of good, bad and horrible, of truth and myth, of wishful thinking and missed opportunity. I'd tell him that technology is going to widen the playing field, but not radically change the rules to allow radically more players on the field.

What I would tell myself most though, is that you're going spend way too many years sitting on your ass waiting for someone else to tap you on the shoulder and say you're in. I'd tell him to expand his definition of what's possible.

In that vein, I'm excited that via my day job at Atlanta Film Festival 365 we've partnered with Sheri Candler, a specialist in indie film marketing and publicity, and Mark Bell of Film Threat to create Film in 140. A bi-monthly panel via twitter, the goals of Film in 140 is multi-fold, among them to expand definitions, to create an outlet that's accessible to filmmakers where ever they be, and hopefully to give voice to the folks who are successfully pioneering new models but aren't on the traditional invite lists or indie film radar. A huge one though, is to delve into the topics that can empower filmmakers.

The first Film in 140 will September 29, 9-10pm and the topic should be a heated one: "Film Piracy: Does it Hurt or Help?". You can follow @filmin140panel for more info and the official hashtag is #filmin140. You can also read Sheri's post about Film in 140 here, and Mark's on Film Threat (he gives a bit more on the evolution of the idea).

By the way, from the time Sheri suggested that we should do an online panel yesterday, to the launch of this initiative, it took us about seven hours. And the actual time spent on it was a few tweets and DMs, about 25 minutes on a conference call nailing down specifics, and maybe six or seven additional emails.

It's taken me nearly 20 years to get to a point to just do it, whatever the hell it maybe. I'm hoping Film in 140 will encourage filmmakers under 25 to just do it, again whatever the hell it maybe.

Summer Box Office: What Happened to the Twitter Effect?

Last year the Twitter Effect was a major topic of conversation. As films like BRUNO underperformed and films like THE HANGOVER were surprisingly strong in 2009, many pondered the impact social media was having on Opening Weekend box office. The main hypothesis for the Twitter Effect was that Saturday audiences were beginning to be influenced more and more by what Friday audiences were saying via Twitter and Facebook. Among the many pieces: 'Twitter effect': User reviews affect box office?

Movie studios try to harness Twitter effect

'Bruno': Did Twitter Reviews Hurt Movie at Box Office? - TIME

The box office Twitter effect. Fact or fiction? | Econsultancy

Of course there were those like Patrick Goldstein who asked Is the 'Twitter Effect' on box office just big-media hype?

With the Summer Box office significantly lagging last year's you'd think Twitter and Facebook would be a greater part of the conversation. Why did THE A-TEAM tank and THE KARATE KID soar, it's got to be that Twitter Effect? Right?

No one's talking about it because, as influential as word of mouth is, turning public opinion around on a film is like turning around a massive ship, it takes time and a lot of energy. The Opening Weekend fates of most movies were decided weeks ago in the hearts of movie-goers. For any large scale release, audiences have seen enough trailers and watched enough Good Morning America interviews to more than make up their mind.

Anyone shocked at the weakness of this summer so far wasn't paying attention when, as the first official mega-film of summer IRON MAN 2 was nearing release, very few Summer films seemed to be generating any buzz beyond their core audience or those interested in the business of movies and not the movies themselves.

Removing TOY STORY 3, because it's a beloved franchise whose sequel is considered to be GODFATHER 2 level good, from the conversation, the only film that's really gotten to audiences this summer appears to be INCEPTION.

While some of the talk about the Twitter Effect last summer was partially a result of the service's 2008-2009 explosion. Some of it also had to be a result of execs protecting their asses and admitting that no matter how much money spent on marketing, their influence over box office results is only so finite*. When you have a chance check out Box-Office Blindsides: The Trouble with Tracking over on The Wrap.

Where Twitter and Facebook could have the greatest impact is in slowing down the erosion of films from one week to the next. So many films every year are well reviewed or connect with audiences, only to see their theatrical lives cut short. While others, surprise at how well received they are, only to get no marketing backup to keep that momentum going.

So the question is, could a few more years of social media influence distributors into reworking their theatrical release strategies? Marketing and distribution is still mostly built around a Open Big, move on to DVD model. Little of it, from my humble perspective, is about what actively happens in that squishy in between period. However, maybe it's not distributors who are best equipped to experiment and innovate here.

If anyone should be pioneering how to use social media at point of sale--turn your nose back down, this art IS a business--it should be exhibitors. Imagine what could be possible if theater owners leveraged their places as community hubs with the power of social media to not only better reach audiences, but to better cultivate and cater to them as well.  A real Twitter Effect could be exhibitors redefining and rediscovering what it means to be your neighborhood theater.

*This sentence has been rewritten since this post went live for clarification and to lessen the snark. The original sentence can be read here: Any talk of the Twitter Effect last summer was more likely execs not only protecting their asses, but also a slimy, backhanded admission that no matter how much money spent on marketing, their influence over box office results is only so finite.