14-06-03 Distribution

    This is the first entry that actually properly qualifies as distribution. I’m not quite finished with post-production. But, other than the soundtrack, which is on schedule, there are just small things to fix. There’s a phone in the background of one the the scenes that needs to be made quieter, and the credits need to be finalized. Other than that, the movie’s pretty much done.

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    Let’s start with the news. 

    A movie journalist friend of mine, Nic Baisley mentioned on Twitter that he has access to a theater in Los Angeles that he can rent out. There’s another theater most indie films use called Downtown Independent. It’s a good location, truly in the middle of downtown L.A. But, Nic’s is in a studio. It’s a notable independent studio, but still, it’s a studio, with gates and things.

    I don’t know what it is about the studio with guards and gates. Maybe there’s some small residual part of me that still wants to be externally validated. While I know that many of the notions of the movie world, especially its production and what makes news, is as false as the illusions of Disneyland. But, maybe everyone else doesn’t know that. Maybe we can pretend Mickey is real for a little while.

    Anyway, the studio motif does make me feel more legit. I don’t know if that will ever go away. I don’t know if my career track will lead me deeper into the studios or further away. I don’t know if my dreams of an independent studio will ever be realized.

    But I digress.

    I booked the theater. It’s just over $1k, which is a lot of money, for me right now. Also, some of the cast and crew won’t be able to make it. Also, some of the journalists won’t be able to make it either. It may be a waste of money. Only time will tell.

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    And that’s a perfect segue into another thing I wanted to mention in this entry. There is too much content for people to possibly consume in a single lifetime. Most of it is bad. But, even if someone only wanted to experience good content, there’s still too much of that. So, we get content aggregators. Those are the gatekeepers. They are the people who work at Wired, The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times, and Boing Boing, to name a few. 

    The problem is, they too are deluged with content. It’s their job to sift through everything to find the good stuff and share it with their massive audiences. They’re good at it. And the moment the aggregators become bad at it, the audience moves to another aggregator.

    My problem, as an independent artists is, how do I get noticed by the aggregators? 

    (A moment of irony: as I write this, like, right now, it seems I’ve become an aggregator. Someone contacted me, asking me to share their content with my Twitter followers.)

    Back to where I was. The primary way movies get noticed is to put movie stars in the movie. Aggregators naturally pay attention to the stars. The stars know this, as do the sales and purchasing agents of the various worldwide studios. That’s why stars cost so much. They know that their cost will be made back when it’s time to do sales.

    This system is so widely known among the industry that sometimes, when an international distributor will buy an idea to package a movie, they will have the star/free budget, which is expected to change based on who gets cast, and the star-budget is based on how much that star is worth in various regions of the world.

    Of course, that whole system is based on the idea of release windows, which is rapidly becoming obsolete.

    Because I chose to not have anyone telling me what I can and can’t do in my movie, I had to forgo standard funding methods. That meant I didn’t have enough money for stars. I got amazing actors, but, as I write this, no one has heard of them. So, the star method is useless to me, or anyone else who wants to make their dream as they dream it.

    The alternative is a very targeted movie, designed to reach a very specific audience. Even if it’s not designed to reach an audience, that audience can be recognized after the fact. ALGORITHM is a movie about computer hackers. I made it accurate enough that actual hackers will like it. However, I also made it approachable enough that a broad audience might like it too.

    But, the broad audience is owned by the aggregators. So I have to start smaller. I have to target the hacking community, which is exactly what I’ve done. During the crowdfunding campaign, I tried to reach out to the major aggregators listed above. 

    It was a shotgun approach that was almost totally ineffective. Almost. I managed to reach some pretty major, very specific voices in the tech podcasting world. They made a huge difference in how much we made. And, it meant I found the real people who are passionate about the subject matter, but who rarely get catered to because there simply aren’t enough of them to show up on Hollywood’s radar. But, for an indie? They’re perfect!

    (Me-As-Aggregator update: While I’m writing this, I asked the Twitterer for more info. I didn’t think she’d respond. She did. I liked it and thought it might fit my rather small but specific audience. So, I shared it. That’s how it works.

    I’m going to continue to digress for a moment.

    Steve Jobs realized that everyone is just a person, doing their best, and that most of the world that we think is solid is made up. I know I’ve written about this already, but it is easily the most empowering idea I’ve come across. Everyone’s just winging it! Remember that. Everyone. From the president, if there is still such a thing when you read this, to the maintenance staff, to the owner of Mars, assuming such a thing has happened by the time you read this.

    The idea is, if they’re winging it, you can to. And so, as I wing it, I naturally build an audience, which means I become an aggregator, perfectly illustrated by above Twitter request.)

    The news that came earlier this week is that I’ve been invited to screen ALGORITHM in New York, at HOPE X, the hacker convention put on by 2600. 2600 is the definitive hacker magazine. It’s been around for as long as I can remember. They show everything from hacking the Windows registry to phone phreaking, building things with Arduino boards, none of which probably doesn’t make any sense to you. 2600 is a big deal. Screening ALGORITHM at HOPE X is the perfect venue for it.

    I truly hope it happens. And, I hope the hackers talk about it. I hope they share it with all their friends and spread the news. That will make ALGORITHM feel like a grass-roots movement, which, I guess it will be.

    This distribution model works because I was able to keep the costs of making the movie so low. I have no investors on my back, demanding I go here or there so they can get their money back. Most of the people who worked on ALGORITHM will probably see it as their calling card, proof that they’re capable of good work. I completely support everyone I worked with. They are all awesome people and were great partners.

    But, I want to make more movies. Do to that, ALGORITHM has to make money. I’m the investor. I’m the one who cares about profits. That means, despite the fact that I would love a great aggregator to come along and funnel me through their filter into their massive audience, it’s probably not going to happen. I’ve got to do it the hard way. I’ve got to build an audience by showing them I can make movies they like.

    And, there’s a huge side benefit to doing things that way. Once I have an audience, I don’t need the star system. I become the star. That means, the budgets of all my future movies will remain very low, giving me the freedom to explore ideas and dreams as I see them. It gives me freedom.