A Glimpse at the Best of the Underrated Indie Film Scene Part 1

 

For those of you who have been following my blog, you know how much I love and support indie film.  I’ve written about some of the goofy B-movies that I love, covered some awesome marketing campaigns for truly great films and given insight into how unit publicity can help films-and their primary storytellers-get the exposure and promotion they deserve. Promotion that will also help them achieve financing and distribution, which I’ve shared some ideas on and some truly awesome platforms that can help.

But what I haven’t done, is share some of the great short films & web series, done by deadly awesome directors who have some of the best creative minds I’ve ever seen. These films & web series span all genres from horror to comedy and film noir and even overlap on a few of them. They’re also from all over the world, from Canada and the US to internationally across the pond in the UK. I regularly chat with many of the production companies and directors on Twitter, sharing their latest projects, tagging them on some cool news and just generally talking about film.

If you know of any other awesome, thought provoking indie films I should check out, please let me know!

But without further ado, here’s the list, in no particular geographical, genre specific or likeability order.

Holding Back-Crossroad Pictures

In this short from the UK production company, directed by the talented Scott Lyus, a seemingly innocuous conversation between a young woman and her mother takes an interesting twist. You get the feeling during the conversation that there’s a lot in the young woman’s past that led to her estrangement from her family and that she’s trying to make amends. The twist comes out of nowhere but yet, is intriguing enough to make you sit down and go over everything you’ve just seen in your mind. Definitely a worthwhile 7 minutes.

 

The Missing Hand-23 ½ Films

The second short from the very first UK based production company I’d ever come across on Twitter, is a hilarious horror comedy. Without spoiling anything, it’s about two people who come across a missing hand and the unintended consequences of finding it. It’s the perfect mix of comedic timing and horrific circumstances. Definitely one of my top two faves from Daniel Harding and 23 ½ Films-top notch and worth the re-watch over and over again.

 

Play Violet For Me-Sunshine Boy Productions

 

For the third entry, we go back across the pond to the US, this time to an award winning film noir short from a LA based production company that I’ll be working with really soon. It’s the story of how smoke and mirrors can not only obscure the truth that’s right in front of your face but make you think of love that’s not really there. Foley Merrick’s obsession with the love of his life, Violet Dupree takes a tragic turn when he finds her dead on her kitchen floor. However, when he calls her twin sister Lila for help, things definitely take a darker turn and slowly, Merrick starts to realize that maybe what he believed to be true, was never true.

 

The Lobster-Guerrilla Motion Pictures

This absolutely gut-busting hilarious 5-part web series is from an Edmonton, Alberta based production company. There’s a chance you’ve probably seen my previous admiration of their short silent film, I Phub You on my Storyhive post.

But this series is definitely something different and it speaks to anyone who’s ever gone through a break up and you’re looking for some wisdom and advice. Here’s the difference, though, the advice guru in this series is a lobster! He bought the lobster from a grocery store and somehow, the thing doesn’t die and continues to dispense relationship advice through his break up! It’s the perfect series for anyone who might be feeling a little down and looking for an unconventional comedy to cheer them up.

 

Going for Broke-Red Castle Films

This comedic short film comes from slightly west of the previous web series, this time on the West Coast, in Vancouver. This production company, led by Jon Silverberg, was responsible for the awesome production values & effects on Static Alex, also featured on my Storyhive post and I’m super excited to see what their upcoming feature, Crypto, will bring to the table.

Basically, the premise of this short film is that a struggling semi-pro golfer struggles to keep things afloat financially for his teenage daughter following his divorce. He struggles on the circuit, losing his last few tournaments, before a hilarious suggestion from a friend results in a good performance. It definitely re-defines ‘going for broke.’

 

Two Pound Forty Pence-23 ½ Films

The second entry on this list from this uber-talented British filmmaker, it’s actually the first film I’ve ever watched from this production company. A man only has enough change on him to catch the last bus home and he’s pursued through the streets by a persistent homeless man. It’s 6 and a half minutes of great nightmarish tension and thrills-and the fear of being caught by someone is something I think all of us who have had to walk home late can relate to.

 

Coffee-Dark Tower Pictures

We’re going back to the US for this entry, this time to a production company that was created by two Elon University students in North Carolina.

Their short film, Coffee, is a film noir about a blind date-with an interesting twist. While I’m sure many of us have gone on blind dates, both good and bad, and might have even set our friends up on a few-I can guarantee that no blind date you’ve been on has a twist quite like this. The film may be just over three minutes long, but the noir atmosphere and the twist make you want to see what happens next.

 

The Face of Vengeance-Kessel Run Productions

We’re in the Land Down Under, in Adelaide, to be more specific, for the next film noir. A hard-boiled detective is driven to the brink to apprehend a suspected serial killer, who murdered his brother. The fact that the suspected serial killer is the mayor’s son makes him virtually untouchable to the law and the detective takes the law into his own hands to get revenge.

 

The Clown Attacks-Crossroad Pictures

Moving back to the UK with the second entry from the amazingly talented Scott Lyus, this film illustrates exactly why so many people hate clowns. On the one hand, you do feel slightly sympathetic towards the clown for being rejected but on the other hand, his reaction is why people fear clowns. So, if you’re not too afraid of clowns or you want something to ease you into watching IT, I’d recommend this gem from Crossroad Pictures.

 

Zombie With a Shotgun-Hilton Ariel Ruiz

 

We’re in NYC for this 5-part zombie web series, which also has a companion comic book series. This web series, which is also being turned into a feature, is about how a young couple sees their love tested when Aaron ends up infected with a mysterious virus. How he becomes infected is a bit of a mystery, although there is references to a doctor’s appointment and blood tests. But what’s more important, is how long he can fight the infection for, whether or not it can be reversed-and what it means for his relationship if he does turn into a zombie. It’s definitely a more sympathetic look at zombies, certainly a vibe closer to that of Warm Bodies, where zombies are not just mindless, hungry creatures. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how this series will progress.

 

The Killer Bird-23 ½ Films

The longest short film and the third entry from the UK based production company, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this one is another horror film or a thriller, similar to the ones from Daniel Harding that I listed earlier. However, the title is simply a metaphor. Wrapped in guise of a young man hunting for and attempting to capture a killer bird, it’s actually an interesting social commentary on some of anti-immigration sentiments that Daniel himself has overhead from people, based on what they hear in the news. The dialogue and the characters are heavily influenced by social groups, key political figures and people with far-right agendas. It’s not a conventional horror film but it’s horror more on a social level. And that, in some ways, is much more frightening. Give a watch if you’re looking for something more though provoking.

Honorable mentions go to the humorous Cupid and the intriguing Ring, Ring.

 

Dead of Night-Kessel Run Productions

For the last film on this list, we go back to Adelaide. This short film is has a more abstract story than the others. Basically, you see a man crouched in an empty room with a shotgun by his arm and a note that reads “The man with the key is the one.” Whoever opens the door in the house will get shot. It seems straight forward, but there is a twist and it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

 

Let me know if you think there are other awesome indie films I should be watching! Stay tuned for more posts on great films, publicity and the business of film!

 

 

 

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My Official Podcast Interview with Max Cole of Cinema After Dark in LA

Hello All!

I wanted to share with you the interview I did with the talented & incomparable film maker and podcast host Max Cole out of LA.  In this interview, we chat about my work as a unit publicist for indie film, what attracts me to indie film and what my process is when it comes to pitching for a film and how I build my network. Then we moved on to chat about music, sports and our mutual love for video games! Definitely a great interview and I’d love to stop by again and chat with Max. Check him out on Twitter @cinemaafterdark & @maxcolefilms, Instagram at @maxcolefilms and on Facebook at Cinema After Dark!

The Ultimate Guide to Short Film Distribution Platforms

If you’re following me on Twitter or happened to read any of my tweets, I’m sure you’ve noticed a theme: I love to show my support for the amazing stories behind indie feature and short films. You’ve probably also seen some evidence of that love through my Crazy8s case study (found here and here.)

And, as a unit publicist and social media strategist, I’ve spent a lot of years watching films, talking and collaborating with several indie film teams on PR campaigns and social media strategies to get their projects the recognition they deserve. In this conversations, I’ve discovered some general themes with how indie film makers work:

  • They understand that in order for their films to achieve recognition, they need publicity. But they need help navigating/obtaining press coverage.
  • As creators, they’d rather focus on putting together all the elements to get their stories to screen (line producing, screen writing, location scouting, casting etc.) than promoting the pre-, production and post-online via social media
  • They’re so focused on pre-production, filming then post-production that they completely ignore/forget the topic of distribution.

Now, I can definitely help clients with points #1 and #2, but the more film makers I talked to, the more I felt like I should also give them a nudge with distribution. It hardly seems fair that directors, producers and screenwriters (sometimes all 3 jobs rolled into one person) who spent an inordinate amount of time working on a project would just throw the film to be screened for free via YouTube or Vimeo. Now I know Vimeo and other VOD platforms have options to set up film rentals, but there should still be more of a revenue stream to it, you know?

Attention all indie filmmakers:  YOU DESERVE TO GENERATE REVENUE OFF YOUR FILM, DON’T APOLOGIZE FOR IT!!

To make sure you don’t forget about distribution or just put your project up for free as an afterthought, I’ve put together the ultimate guide for short film (though you CAN distribute feature-length films on these as well) distribution.

 1) VHX

 

Great for: Short & Feature Films, Web Series, TV Series

Some of the pros from the VHX platform: You can build an entire website using their website templates or you can use their customizable embed tools to integrate the widgets that will allow people to see the trailers and purchase/rent the films on your existing website.

You control all the pricing and content whether you decide to embed the widgets onto your site or build an entirely new one. You can decide to run your own subscription network (branded for your production company) to give your fans unlimited streaming of all your projects with monthly or annual plans or sell downloads and rentals of all your films. They have a handy dandy calculator that will show you how their fees stack up and how much video uploading, the subscription and buy/rent options cost.

2)Distrify

 

Great for: Short & Feature Films, Web Series, TV Series

Distrify allows you to sell your films even as you’re releasing your first official trailer. You’ll never have to pay to have your film featured on a VOD platform again. You can use Distrify for free to get your film featured on every website your audiences visit simply by sharing the video player. Then they’ll be able to watch your film from any platform. The video player is ultra-fast, HTML5 and allows you to set up rental/download options as well.

It’s available worldwide in multiple languages and currencies and the video player is always optimized for maximum performance on mobile platforms. You also get 85% back with 60p fixed cost and you’ll have the option to set your own pricing for rentals too!

3)Shorts TV

 

Great for: Short Films

This is a company that gives you more than one distribution platform option. All you have to do is complete the short films submission form and email it along with a password protected online link of your film to either the US or World contact for a chance to be featured on the world’s first and only 24/7 HD TV channel dedicated to short films or for download from online distributors such as iTunes, Google Play, Vimeo On Demand, Verizon, Amazon Video US, Amazon Video Germany or Amazon Video UK. Once you submit your film and it gets accepted, the company will upload it onto the platforms for you, so you don’t have to worry. Fans will be to see it on all these VODs as well as several different TV providers in the US and Europe.

4)It’s a Short

 

Great for: Short Films, Other Videos & Web Series

Once you sign up, you can upload and store your films and video content for free with no setup or storage charges. You can share your films via customized links on the different short film channels on the website and enter the associated film festivals on the circuit such as the Seattle International Film Festival and Miami Short Film Festival. You’ll get paid every time someone watches your films as the website allows people to subscribe to their entire library of short films & web series for $2/month or $20/year or rent a film for $1.49/month.

5)Short of the Week

Great for: Short Films

On this platform, you’ll have to pay $29 to submit your film and it’ll increase your chance of getting selected if your film hasn’t premiered online and is free for audiences. Once it’s accepted, you’ll have to send along a press kit and some film stills but in return, it’ll be featured on the website’s exclusive selection of short film channels. They’ll also send you an official launch guide to help position the best online launch for your film possible. They’ll also post official reviews of the short films they accept as well, so along with distribution, you’ll receive some press coverage!

6)Short of the Month

 

Great for: Short Films & Music Videos

This website allows you to submit your film through Film Freeway and they promote all kinds of short films, including the posters and trailers. They feature the films that are accepted onto their website and each accepted short film also enters for a chance to win awards such as Short of the Month (Best Film Award), Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Poster Design, Best Music Video or Viewer’s Choice Award (Most Viewed/Liked/Shared film on the website). All winning films will be listed on the website for life and receive a signed certificate by the website’s jury members.

Any film that wins Short of the Month will have exclusive advertising with the video & image ads placed across the web platform and an online interview with the director will be published, which means you’ll receive press coverage as well. Fees for submission will depend on which category you choose. For example, if your film is shortlisted under the premium ultra-submission, you’ll receive a dedicated page for your short, 24×7 email support, written review by SOTM team, video and image ads on the website and ad revenue share (with 100% share to filmmaker).

7)Seed and Spark

Great for: Short Films, Feature Films and TV Series

While this LA-based company is primarily a crowdfunding platform for indie films, they also offer a distribution platform. In order to submit your film, you must make sure that it’s not streaming for free elsewhere, own the content outright and fits into the categories of narrative, documentary, animated or experimental feature, short or episodic/transmedia project. You must also have a fanbase of at least 500 followers through social media or crowdfunding. If your film gets selected for distribution, you’ll receive 60% of the revenue split, customized marketing support, deep audience data and total financial transparency. You’ll also have to let the company know how you’ve been gathering your audience and how your project increases representation and inclusion in front of and/or behind the camera.

8)Gumroad

Great for: Short Films, Feature Films, Web Series, TV Series

Unlike some of the other platforms, Gumroad isn’t film or video specific. It’s a marketplace platform that allows you to also sell music, comics, software and books, basically a storefront for any creative industry.

You can personalize the landing page to feature your films and/or embed the Gumroad follow form on your existing website. You can import and export your followers/customers via email list at any time and if you need help, they have a 30-day audience building challenge and a 10-day product launch program. You can give your customers easy offers, sell your films in a wide variety of currencies, add a + sign to the price of a film to allow your audience to pay what they want and highlight your film/TV series/Web series library with dynamic image covers.

When they buy a rental from you, customers will have 30 days to stream (not download) the video files. Once they click “play” on a video file, their access to this file will expire in 72 hours. You can also set up the film to be purchased. How much does it cost to use Gumroad? It starts at $10/month with unlimited bandwidth and payments are just 3.5% + 30 cents per charge.

 

Know any other short film/film distribution platforms? Let me know! And keep it posted here for more posts on indie film, social media and marketing!

 

 

 

 

Case Study: Managing Unit Publicity and PR Campaign for the 2017 Crazy8s Film Event

website_banner_2017_films1

THE CHALLENGE

As unit publicist for the Crazy8s Film Event, developing the PR campaign for the film event as well as managing the publicity for all 6 winning teams during production, on set and during post production meant that I had educate the media that this was a film event, not a film festival. Being a film event meant that the top 6 winning teams won THE RIGHT to have their films produced and edited in 8 days with in-kind sponsorship donations in the form of cash and equipment, rather than submitting finished films to win awards.

The teams were:

cypher-poster

CypherA coming of age hip hop story about a Korean American teenager who finds a platform to confront the pain of his past in LA’s underground hip hop scene following the 1992 riots.

anh-hung-poster

Anh Hung-a story of how sibling bonds are forever changed when a young girl discovers the truth of her family’s (and her older brother’s) activities outside the law.

the-prince-poster

The Prince-a young dancer and her uncle, an actor, struggle with their identity as Middle Eastern Canadians following a violent confrontation on public transit.

no-reservations-poster

No Reservations-a satirical take on pipelines where the roles of the homeowners and the oil/gas company executives are reversed.

Undertaker’s Son– A young man in an 1880s Western town is forced to confront some long buried feelings about family when he joins his father for his first day of work as a undertaker for the family business.

woodman-poster

WoodMan-A man made of wood befriends a woman online and comes to realize how some of the lies he’s been telling himself has kept him trapped for years.

Additionally, I was also responsible for working with the teams to develop the official press kits that properly reflected their experiences and positioned the proper ‘story hooks’ for each of the 6 films to mainstream and online local and international media. With this year’s group of films focused on subjects outside popular genres such as horror, LGBT, romance and straight up comedy, developing the PR campaign was less about pitching to genre-specific media and more about doing research into each media outlet and what the types of films the journalists/bloggers/podcasters usually reviewed and scheduled interviews for.

THE SOLUTION

public-relations-concept-in-the-pr-industry1

After conducting extensive research into key media outlets and influencers and the topics they covered, I focused on pitching all 6 teams based on 3 parameters:

  • The hooks/subject matter/genre of each film
  • The background/experience of the director/producer teams (ie. whether they’d won awards, notable projects they’d worked on)
  • The ages of the director/producer teams (as some media outlets skewed more towards audiences between the ages of 20-35)

Following these parameters, I pitched all 6 teams to select podcasts and blogs in Vancouver, New York, Toronto and Seattle along with local radio stations and newspapers. Over the course of the six weeks, I followed up with key media outlets through both email and conversations via social media and continue to pitch each film based on topics of interest. I also worked with the Vancouver Sun to set up an official production blog for all teams to blog about their experiences with Crazy8s and share their journeys from writing the scripts to location scouting and casting.

RESULTS

crazy8s-2017-opening-gala

Through story pitching and social media campaign management, I secured national and international press coverage for all 6 film teams and the film event including but not limited to: radio stations such as Roundhouse Radio and Co-op Radio in Vancouver, broadcast media outlets such as CBC Vancouver, Novus TV and Vancouver TV, podcast media such as Endeavours Radio and print media outlets such as The Georgia Straight.

National and international outlets include Under the Noise Podcast (New York), About to Review (Seattle), Never Sleeps Network (Toronto) and Short Film Fan (Toronto)