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International Documentary Conference Opens

Wednesday, June 14---As the SILVERDOCS festival entered its first full day of programming, today was also the start of the very ambitious International Documentary Conference, which brings together an illustrious group of film and media professionals who will address topics of interest to the dozens of documentary filmmakers and distributors who are attending this year's event. With 30 sessions over 4 days, this is an unprecendented "intensive" for all those interested in where documentary film is at and where it is going.

Topics range from new sources of financing to charting the revolution in production technique and distribution models. The Conference began this morning with a 6 hour intensive on High Definition Television, taught by veteran cinematographer Rob Draper. Draper has worked in all areas of the business, including feature films, television, music videos and television/cinema commercials. His current focus is on High Definition Television (HDTV) as an emerging format for feature film and television production, and its high fidelity to imagery, photography and all the subtle qualities heretofore reserved for film. For more information on Rob Draper, log on to his production company website: http://www.northernlightfilms.com.

Another highly topical master class was led by veteran indie consultant and producer's representative Peter Broderick, who has been active on the independent film scene for almost 25 years. Broderick addressed the topic of the revolution in film distribution, which is altering models that have existed for decades. "The old models of how a film is released, mainly in theaters first, then followed by so-called ancillary markets and internationally territory by territory, are breaking down", Broderick declared. "These models never were especially good for independent filmmakers, because they insisted on turning over all rights in all media to one company, instead of finding the best company to exploit the rights in any particular distribution platform".

Broderick detailed stories of films that he was involved in through his completion funding company Next Wave Films (which was funded by the Independent Film Channel for several years before being disbanded in 2002) that were substantial hits, for which the filmmakers saw very little money. "You would be surprised at how little was actually passed on to the filmmakers, after the distributors had deducted expenses", Broderick said. The nods and exclamations of recognition from the audience of independent filmmakers were clearly audible.

What is fueling excitement and optimism in this "distribution revolution" is the internet. Broderick cited several impressive models, based on current and past clients of his company Paradigm Consulting , who have used the internet as a powerful marketing and sales tool, essentially overriding the distributors' sole purview of the delivery of films to the general public.

Broderick showed film clips from several niche films, that have not been released in the theatrical market nor sold to a video distributor, which have made substantial sales directly from the filmmakers' websites. "If your film has a strong appeal for a core audience, and you build up your email database and links to organizations and websites that cater to that audience, you can make a very healthy return on your investment", Broderick explained.

He gave several examples of films that were produced in the digital format that have made back more than 5 times their investment by direct sales via the internet. That is an impressive number that most Hollywood films cannot even match.

Broderick also stressed that this new style of marketing via the internet has an added dimension to it. "When you sell your film from your website, not only do you hold on to a great percentage of the actual sales price, you can also assemble the email addresses of your customers, and can use those lists to sell future films and even raise money for financing by pre-selling dvd copies of your newest project", Broderick declared. "The web creates a relationship between filmmakers and their audiences that is more intimate and meaningful than the relationship that a distributor has with an unknown and faceless mass public", Broderick continued, "and that loyalty can be a very effective promotional tool."

Direct sales from websites have accounted for the largest single revenue source for the independent films that Broderick cited. One film, a drama about high school wrestling titled REVERSAL, has never been shown theatrically, is not available in video retail shops, nor has it been sold to television. However, the filmmakers have generated over $1 Million in revenue, through the sales of the DVD, CD of the film soundtrack, and various merchandising items, by tapping into existing databases and mailing lists of amateur wrestling enthusiasts. "With the coming of digital downloads, as well as video podcasting and other technologies for mobile technology, these numbers will grow exponentially", Broderick exclaimed.

Truly, this is a revolution and gives independent filmmakers unprecedented control of not only the revenue stream, but also the marketing, promotion and ultimate delivery of their films. While Hollywood continues to falter with expensive films that tank at the box office and current distributors are still feeling their way in a greatly changed marketplace, the opportunity is ripe for visionary independent filmmakers to not only reach a wider audience but to sustain viable careers outside of the existing system. "Make no mistake about it, there is a revolution underway", Broderick exulted, "and this revolution offers unprecedented possibilities for the independent film community." For more information, log on to www.peterbroderick.com.


Sandy Mandelberger
24framespersecond

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Dates: June 13-18, 2006


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