Think Outside The Box Office

We don’t often review books on the Disinformation site, partly because we’re publishers ourselves and it might seem as though we have a competitive conflict of interest, but probably more because all our reading time is taken up with submissions, editing, and so forth.

I have to make an exception for a book that arrived in the mail this morning: Jon Reiss’ Think Outside The Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing for the Digital Era. It’s no secret that indie film has gone through an amazing period of growth for any number of reasons, not least access to cheap but high quality cameras and computers/editing systems. The way we watch indie film has changed drastically too, from art house cinemas to DVDs that arrive in the mail or from a kiosk in a supermarket, on demand via your cable or satellite TV provider, or online via iTunes, Netflix, Amazon.com or, gasp, Bit Torrent.

When Disinformation entered the home video market in 2003 it was perfect timing (accidental, proving the old maxim, better to be lucky than smart) and we rode the wave of documentary films selling in big numbers on DVD. Now that the retail DVD market is dying we’re finding new ways to bring our films to their intended niche audiences, and that’s exactly what Jon’s book is all about. What worked yesterday is failing today and won’t work at all tomorrow.

The only hesitation I have in recommending this book to every single independent filmmaker today is that armed with the information in this book, a filmmaker is potentially equipped to bypass distributors like Disinformation completely! But, in the spirit of ‘information should be free,’ go to Reiss’ book site and buy a copy today (the only drawback to the book is that although it’s up to the minute, things are changing so fast that Reiss will have to update it annually if not even more frequently to remain on the forward edge of film distribution). Here’s some of the promo language from that site detailing what’s in the book:

The independent film community is a buzz with the collapse of the traditional independent film distribution model. No longer can filmmakers expect their films to be acquired and released in the cinema. Just as the digital revolution created a democratization of the means of production, a new hybrid approach to distribution has created a way for independent filmmakers to take control. This approach is not just DIY or Web based. It combines the best techniques from each distribution arena, old and new.

I released my own film Bomb It using this new model of distribution. But there was no guide for me, I had to search out information from disparate sources. I knew that I was reinventing the wheel, but I had no choice. Part of the reason I wrote this book is because I wish I had had it before I released my film.

For the past year, I have appeared on numerous panels at film festivals around the world. Everywhere, filmmakers are hungry for information on how to distribute and market their films. No single resource exists that combines all of the knowledge and tools now available to them. Think Outside the Box Office now fills that void.

The book is a break through step-by-step nuts and bolts guide to distributing and marketing a film. Each chapter addresses an essential aspect of a film’s release and offers specific techniques so filmmakers can take control of their distribution and marketing destiny.

In writing this book I not only drew on my own experiences, but I spoke with countless filmmakers, distributors, publicists, web programmers, festival programmers and marketing experts to create this ultimate resource of up to the minute information.

I designed the book to be a daily resource as you go through the process of releasing your film. I guarantee it will become a trusted resource that will sit on your desk because it contains an incredible amount of information that you will go back to again and again.

Here are just a few of the topics covered in the 38 chapters of the book:

  • Creating a unique distribution and marketing strategy for your film.Audience identification and targeting Negotiating split rights agreements for your film.
  • Putting together your distribution and marketing team. Social networking – crowdsourcing and crowdfunding.
  • Budgeting for distribution and marketing.
  • Booking a conventional and unconventional theatrical release.
    Conventional and web marketing.
  • How to sell DVDs with a distributor and on your own.
  • Affiliate marketing and partnerships.
  • Television, cable and VOD.
  • How to DIY your digital rights.

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    As someone who has read the book and strongly believes in marketing a film from its inception, I disagree that Jon's book will make filmmakers bypass distributors. He definitely advocates that filmmakers take control of their distribution futures, but he really isn't saying you should do it all on your own. It should be just as much a team effort to distribute as it is to make a film. While not entirely supporting an all rights deal where the distributor is the dumping ground of a project, he encourages filmmakers to get involved in the business aspects of filmmaking just as much as the artistic process. The “treat me right” attitude of many filmmakers will result in the exact opposite happening if they excuse themselves from the process.

    As a distributor, wouldn't you want to work with a filmmaker who has paid attention to building an audience for their work and already started profiting? It only lessens your risk and the filmmaker profits from your broader reach.

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