For ALGORITHM, the key to distribution is our website. I’ve decided to self-distribute it. There have been other terms used to try and make it seem more professional or official, such as creative-distribution or independent distribution. But, the end is the same. I’ve cut out the middle-men… mostly because there isn’t really a middle anymore.
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I use a company called Dreamhost to host my production company’s website. And, they’re a great company for that. I have incredible access to their servers. But, the fact is, if ALGORITHM does anywhere near the kind of traffic we’re planning, then my $9.99 a month plan is going to get shut off and I’ll be forced to pay somewhere close to $700.00 a month. At least, those were the numbers the last time I checked.
So, we went with a different company called Squarespace. It’s not the best name for a company because the name doesn’t convey any images of what the company does. But, then, I guess Apple and Amazon don’t either. Maybe that idea went out with the tech industry. In fact, the only real descriptive names I can think of are Microsoft and International Business Machine, or IBM.
Anyway, Squarespace provides the service I need at the price I want. On top of that, they provide a flexible platform that’s tastefully designed. That’s something that’s notably missing from Wordpress installs. The only way to get a pretty Wordpress install is to have one custom-built.
Squarespace also partners with a company that allows us to sell things on the website, including a variety of digital downloads. More on that in a minute. But, you can see from this simple solution that I’ve effectively eliminated the need for any middle-men. We created. For a small fee, we have a business space, and distribution throughout the entire world. That’s the movie business today!
Does that mean ALGORITHM won’t eventually be on Hulu/iTunes/Etc.? I’ve got a lot of things planned. We’ve got DVD/Blu-ray combo packs for sale on Amazon planned. I’ve even got a plan for a possible theater run, if I see that there’s enough people to make that a smart move.
But, our first sales tier is our website.
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The big question I have to answer today is, when we officially launch on Monday, should there be anything for sale? And, a subset of that is, if yes, what should that be?
The debate of having something for sale on the website is really about two questions:
1) Is it legal to sell things months before they actually exist;
2) Is it better to build up hype or to have something for immediate purchase.
I’ll deal with question 1 first. The law clearly states that as long as I let people know that the item won’t be available for download or streaming until a specified date, then it’s legal to sell stuff as early as I want.
This brings about two other questions. Part of our SAG contract states that we will have an online premiere. Our plan, so far is to have it be on Youtube for 24 hours on July 14, Bastille day. But, I’ve got to ask myself, if I bought something and then found out it was available for free afterwards, would I be pissed? The answer is, I might not be. But, most people would be. This was clearly demonstrated when Apple dropped the prices of the 1st generation iPhone.
So, the answer, then, is that pre-sales aren’t an option, at least, not until after 07/14. The last thing I want to do is make people angry about supporting my movie.
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One of the things I’ve found to be very helpful, when I try to solve a problem, is to write it out. Writing forces me to organize my thoughts in a logical and systematic manner. This, then, gives me the ability to think more clearly about exactly what I’m doing and the various ramifications of each decision.
In the above paragraphs, you can see me doing exactly that. When I started writing the paragraph, “The big question I have to…” I fully intended to do preorders. Now, I’m not. I’ve had 3 extended discussions with people asking their ideas on exactly how to implement preorders, and I even asked if I should do preorders. But, it wasn’t until I wrote it down in the above section that I was actually able to make a decision.
Of course, since you won’t be reading this journal until after the fact, you’ll know if I did or didn’t do preorders, and if what I did was or wasn’t successful.
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The look and the feel of the website, from an aesthetic point of view, needs to be stylistically consistent with everything else I put out. In other words, the poster needs to inform the website, which needs to inform all of the various pages on the website. That includes everything from font choices and sizes, to spacial relationships and how busy each page or poster looks.
I’m a fan of elegant design. That means something should look like what it does, and it should look like it fits in to the space where it’s doing it.
For me, the implementation of elegance means that the thing should also do what it does with the fewest possible components. The case of the movie project, it means we had only the necessary crew on set. There was hardly a time where anyone was standing around, doing nothing, or waiting to do their job.
In post-production there really is only me running things. I don’t have other people. This might not be possible for you. It’s possible for me because I’ve spent years working in the related fields, both of sound design, color correction, editing. I’ve even had my own website for over 10 years.
But, elegant design also requires that each person helping to make it knows what they’re doing. I don’t know much about the aesthetics of graphic design. So, I’ve hired Stuart. He’s good at what he does. He’s making sure the website, the poster, the various covers, they’re all consistent. I’ll then take Stuart’s ideas and incorporate them into the movie’s title design and also into the trailers.
If you can do something well, it’s okay to do it yourself. If you’re interested in making the best possible movie, and you can’t do something, lose the pride and get someone else. Your pride can kill the project just as easily as bad camera work, bad acting, bad marketing, etc. Be honest. And, if you’re not cable of being honest with yourself, then have someone else around you who is cable of telling you how they see it.
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The website goes live Monday. We begin our media manipulation plans on Monday. And, as of right now, there will not be any preorders available on Monday.
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I was going to stop this entry with the above paragraph, but then I realized I hadn’t mentioned our media manipulation plan… at all.
There is a book called "Trust Me, I’m Lying" by Ryan Holiday. Before you read this book, you should have some kind of external locus of morality. Otherwise, you will probably find yourself in a world of guilt.
Holiday outlines how today’s media can be swayed to print/say/show what you want them to, with relative ease and little to no money. If you use Holiday’s tactics, which he claims no longer work, but which I think is a ploy to get everyone else from using them… just be careful.
We’re going to use them. More on how that works out in another post.
Neil is my media relations specialist. He is driving our marketing plan. He’s getting a percentage of the profits, as is Stuart. Neil suggested the general layout of the website. He also suggested I start a blog. The blog isn’t a duplication of this journal. It’s much more… aggressive than that.
The blog is a tool for us that will let us perform what I call a social hack. As of now, I’ll be writing all the articles. The articles are designed to be based off of already existing news sites, only more… emotionally evocative. I was trying to describe what the blog does a few minutes ago and the best word I could come up with at the time was inflammatory.
We’re not trying to inflame people’s emotions. We’re simply trying to illicit an emotional response, that then translates into web traffic. Since the major news agencies monitor the links to their sites, they’ll see that we linked to them, and that we’re getting a bunch of hits. That means they’ll see the blog. They might even repost our post on their site. If we design it right, that’s exactly what they’ll do.
So, the articles contain, not only links, and content that gets a response from readers, but also contains references to ALGORITHM. So, even if the major website reposts our post, ALGORITHM will be mentioned on that major site.
On top of that, Neil will be contacting media personalities personally. He’ll send out emails. His tactic is attention through attrition. He will keep sending emails, slightly different content, slightly different times, slightly different people, over and over and over again until he gets a response. Until he gets responses from everyone.
Neil’s very conservative web hit estimates are that within the first two months of our beginning this campaign, we’ll get 20,000 hits. The most hits I’ve gotten on the website, in a month, ever, is 163, and that’s happening now, with the site on Squarespace. I’ve never done or been a part of anything that’s this ambitious. If it works, then you’ll be reading this. (How’s that for meta?)
And, that’s just within the first 2 months. That’s before anyone has seen the movie. That’s before we’ve succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of independent movies. That’s before we’ve won.
When I first sat down with Neil to talk about our plan, I told him, if we make $1 million, we’ll make news (that’s without our manipulation plan). If we make $100 million, we’ll have changed Hollywood, maybe even the entire way business is done. We’ll have shown that a profit-share model, where the artists make the money, is a model that works, and that can be replicated.
I dream big. I am ambitious. I am also realistic and pragmatic. There are pragmatic solutions that you can make and use that will make your dream come true But, if you’re like me, you’ve got to want it.
I told Phil Matarrese that I’m willing to go to jail to make ALGORITHM. I’m willing to die for it. I’m willing to sacrifice just about anything for it, so long as I don’t compromise my underlying morality. I will not kill for it, or hurt anyone else. But, what part I have in it, there is no limit to what I will give.
In the last post, I hinted the emotional pain. Yes, that was just a hint. That moment, of crying in the bathtub to Blue in Green. That is not an isolated incident. It happens often enough that I have grown to know how I’m going to feel when I get sad, and about how long it’s going to last. And, I know the kinds of things that cause my sadness. That level of awareness only comes with repeated exposure. If you want to follow in my footsteps, get ready for it. It’s part of the package.
Of course, along with the lows are fabulous highs that I could never have imagined. I have a life many of my friends had not dreamed possible. I live my life in a very full way. And there’s not a single day that goes by where I’m not fully alive, fully aware of what’s going on, fully being who I am, where I am. I can’t zone out and go through my life like an automaton, asleep. There’s simply too much stimulation.
I don’t know what’s going to happen on Monday when the website goes live. It may fizzle. But, everything about ALGORITHM so far has been exactly the opposite. It’s done spectacularly beyond what I could have imagined. Time to go public… on Monday.