"Look Your Customers in the Eye" is an article by Paul Devlin, published in Filmmaker Magazine.
Independent filmmaker Brian Paul is a man who lives his films. In that spirit, he has taken DIY film distribution to a whole new level. Street level, that is.
For the past two years, Paul has made a comfortable living by selling his hybrid fi lm Cure for the Crash…The Art of Train Hoppin’ directly from art market street stalls in New Orleans. His unique distribution strategy has proved remarkably successful. Paul claims to have sold thousands of DVDs of Cure for the Crash by personally engaging more than 100,000 people face-to-face.
“When I was a teenager in West Philly,” Paul explains, “I used to work in a pawn shop, where I learned how to help people make a decision.” Later, his aggressiveness evolved into charm as Paul took a job selling art at high-end galleries on Royal Street in New Orleans. Paul went on to use these sales skills to move DVDs of Cure for the Crash from his Vespa at historic Jackson Square in the Big Easy while simultaneously pushing hard with mailings and email blasts to attract a distribution deal.
Paul wrote this article for DOX Magazine during the Power Trip era. Check it out for some interesting information on the 4:3 to 16:9 conversion. After all, you still come across 4:3 content stretched to fit a 16:9 screen, even now. How do we make it all look good?
"Versioning" has become an inevitable burden for non-fiction filmmakers as they adapt their work to fit various television time-slots in an effort to squeeze every drop of revenue from a project.
My film Power Trip now has four different length versions with another in progress, and I am approaching twenty distinct Masters, with iterations for NTSC, PAL, Texted and Textless. Tape stock expenses alone are burdensome.
Now comes a new dimension to versioning as TV transitions from the traditional 4:3 aspect ratio to 16:9 - finally catching up to cinema, which went wide-screen decades ago, reacting to the perceived threat when television was new. There seems to be little consensus across borders about the best way to make this transition, so the process has become bewildering.
In Europe I've seen 16:9 TV's stretching out 4:3 sports broadcasts, making the athletes look ridiculously fat. Channel surfing on a sophisticated wide-screen TV produces a startling variety of shape contortions to fit the screen size. Broadcasts in 4:3 from the US, such as MTV, suffer most, blown up and cropped on top and bottom to fit 16:9...CONTINUE READING HERE!
When I was a senior in high school, I noticed that the rejection letter I received from Harvard had a grammatical error. So, I wrote a letter back, rejecting their rejection letter. Then I sent a version to all the colleges that had rejected me.
My mother, Nancy Devlin, sent a copy of this letter to the New York Times and it was published in the New Jersey section in 1981. Then in the mid-’90s or so, there was a cover story in the New York Times Magazine about the trauma students were experiencing getting rejected from colleges. As an education writer, my mom knows all too well that educational issues are cyclical. So she re-submitted the letter.
This time it was published in the Op-Ed section of the Sunday New York Times, a very prestigious, high-profile space. It turns out the letter had already become popular and was reprinted in newspapers, books etc. (without my knowledge, pre-internet). The NewYork Times accused me of plagiarism. When they discovered that I was the original author and they had unwittingly re-printed themselves, they were none too happy. But my mom insists that it was important to reprint the article because the issue was clearly still relevant. The letter remains popular on the internet even today.
Anyway, here it is:
Office of Admissions Any College Wherever U.S.A Dear Any College:
Having reviewed the many rejection letters I have received in the last few weeks, it is with great regret that I must inform you I am unable to accept your rejection at this time.
This year, after applying to a great many colleges and universities, I received an especially fine crop of rejection letters. Unfortunately, the number of rejections that I can accept is limited.
Each of my rejections was reviewed carefully and on an individual basis. Many factors were taken into account – the size of the institution, student-faculty ratio, location, reputation, costs and social atmosphere.
I am certain that most colleges I applied to are more than qualified to reject me. I am also sure that some mistakes were made in turning away some of these rejections. I can only hope they were few in number.
I am aware of the keen disappointment my decision may bring. Throughout my deliberations, I have kept in mind the time and effort it may have taken for you to reach your decision to reject me.
Keep in mind that at times it was necessary for me to reject even those letters of rejection that would normally have met my traditionally high standards.
I appreciate your having enough interest in me to reject my application. Let me take the opportunity to wish you well in what I am sure will be a successful academic year.
"Although ArtistShare is a fan-based funding platform developed for the music industry, a documentary filmmaker decided to break new ground by trying it out to fund his latest documentary. He shares his experiences in the following."
Last year at a summit meeting of the independent film community called “The Conversation,” Ira Deutchman was compelled to propose, “Filmmaking has never been a business…it’s a hobby.” Sentiments like this are not uncommon after the hardships filmmakers have faced in recent years, the multiple threats to our business models that accompanied both technological change and the global economic crisis. In fact, many filmmakers have been forced to re-evaluate the economic viability of their entire enterprises.
Soul-searching in tough times is important, but our community must be extremely careful with our language and avoid using words like “hobby.” Why? Because the IRS is listening! If you are deducting filmmaking expenses from other sources of income on your tax returns, then you must identify your filmmaking as a for profit business and not a hobby.
Documentary filmmakers have become especially vulnerable to the perception that they are engaged in a hobby rather than an activity for profit. Because development takes so long and revenue sources are so difficult to sustain, filmmakers often endure losses over many years. They persevere because they become so passionate about their subject matter and the need to spread their message to the world that generating a profit may not seem primary.
Unfortunately the unfair and incorrect perception that documentary filmmakers are not interested in profit has resulted in unsettling scrutiny of our industry by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. In a case now in U.S Tax Court in Arizona, the IRS has been asked to demonstrate whether or not the primary purpose of documentary filmmaking in general is “to educate and to expose” and is thus “an activity not engaged in for profit.”
This may sound absurd, but it is very serious. If the IRS wins their case against Arizona filmmaker Lee Storey (Smile ’Til It Hurts: The Up With People Story), documentary filmmakers may no longer be permitted to deduct expenses associated with making their films from other sources of income. Furthermore, filmmakers who have already deducted these expenses may be faced with potentially ruinous audits.
Emily Callis Raabe and Paul Josiah Devlin were married Saturday at the home of the bride’s parents in Charlotte, Vt. James W. Murdoch, a friend of the couple who was granted a one-day permission by the Vermont Superior Court to serve as an acting Superior Court judge, officiated.
It was a coup when my friend, producer David Lenick managed to bring this series of high-end national spots starring Kate Moss to Chromavision, the boutique post-house I was working in. I did the conform edit in our big linear, online editing suite. It can be stressful doing high-profile agency work, but these folks were more friendly and less demanding than most. Except when they questioned the resolution of our title camera for the Graphics (back before you could just import a hi-res file). Some tense moments, as Dave went in search of a replacement.
In the end everyone was satisfied and the spots were omnipresent on television for a long time. A great resumé piece!
Join director Paul Devlin as he pitches BLAST! at the Toronto Documentary Forum. BLAST! was the first film ever to partner with Artist Share.com - a company that developed a participant model for fundraising that has been very successful in the music industry. Paul has written extensively about our experiences on the ArtistShare project. You can read his article published in DOX magazine here. (pdf)
The BLAST! Artist Share project included regular video updates of the filmmaking process for participants. These are now being made available to general audiences.
In this update, Paul and the BLAST! team travel to the Toronto Documentary Forum at the Hot Docs Film Festival. They are there to pitch the idea for BLAST! to dozens of commissioning editors in a roundtable forum with hundreds of onlookers. The stakes are high, perhaps determining if the film will be funded and broadcast internationally.
Enjoy this unique insiders view into the filmmaking process!