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Posts Tagged ‘internet’

It’s a lot of time and energy to keep up your profile on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Linkedin, Ning sites and dozens of other social networking sites. However, if you’re trying to make a living in the creative arts, be it an independent filmmaker, musician, artist, then you’ve got to look at it as part of the job.

Here’s just one recent example with my short film “Travelin’ Trains.” A few weeks back I notice Greg Sarni has become a Facebook friend with my sister Lindsay Mofford. Now I remember Greg, not well, but I remember drinking beer and hanging out with him at Emerson College. We reconnect, become online friends. On his Facebook site are photographs and notes about his days running the Boston Blues Festival. I mention “Travelin’ Trains,” my short blues film about a boy in search of his father in the Depression-era South. It’s full of traditional, acoustic blues. He wants to see it, especially because one of the stars is Chicago Bob Nelson.  A few years back, Bob collected the Blues Trust Lifetime Achievement Award. Greg is a fan of his music and makes mention of the prize and film in his online newsletter, Blues Trust. He also adds the Cacchi link where you can see my film for free.  The film gets a jump in views including a recommendation on Twitter by the famous Ash Grove bar in Los Angeles. I see the text and Twitter back that we need to do a documentary on the history of one of the most important folk clubs in the country. Discussions and developments begin. Thanks Greg.

Do you see where I’m going with all this? At Unconventional South in Nashville, we are constantly talking to an incredible roster of talented musicians who know that the old ways of creating an audience no longer apply.  Brian Adams knows this and is developing the network television series “Stone Cold Sober in Music City” with an online home base. You can read more about that venture in a previous blog.  We’ve also been exploring that with Billy Falcon, his daughter Rose Falcon and The Sowing Circle on Ustream.  A wonderful write up at indiemusictech.com covers what a musician has to do these days to get their music heard.  It was also a big issue of discussion at the SXSW music conference as referenced in Wired magazine.

Mashable.com is a wealth of information of guidelines, with success and failure stories of what works for artists and entrepreneurs. The write up about Ning job networks and entrepreneur networks are two of my favorite resources. How do I know when there is a new article? I follow them on Twitter. When a new story is online, they’ll put a link on Twitter. I can access it if I’m interested. This process is exactly the same for all us artists. You release a new song, photograph, film, art show and let people know it is there. The fans decide if they want to access it or not. They hear or see it and your network spreads the word. If they’re not spreading the word then something isn’t grabbing their attention.

Now everyone has their own set of rules of what and how they want to communicate via the web. I use MySpace mostly for listening to new bands and keeping track of gigs via bulletins. I reserve Facebook for my actual friends, mainly because I’ve got some friends on there that I’ve known since Junior High School.  I’d rather not share those old stories with someone I just met at a networking event. In those cases, I stay linked to the business contacts, new and old, via LinkedIn. And for me, Twitter is all about the RSS feed. I’m following you because either I like what you have to say, play, write or communicate. If you’ve got a suggestion, I want the link. I hope those that follow me feel the same way about my “tweets.”

Now I know there are dozens of other social networks including “Ning” sites like my Brother-in-Laws site, All Hands on Board, which can be very specialized. I just don’t feel like I need to be on all of them.  It might look like some sort of desperate need to be noticed. You see, there is a fine line and only you can decide what is needed to get the word out and what is too much.  We each make our own rules and that, my online friend, has got to be one of the greatest things about social networks.

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The amazing musical artist, once again known as, Prince has recently been quoted as saying, “the Gatekeepers must change.”  This was in reference to his frustration with the major labels and the creation of his own record label and his three upcoming, yes three, releases.  The man is prolific.  He’s got a new interactive website, www.lotusflow3r.com, that has some of his new music and soon will carry videos and idea blogs.  It really isn’t that different then what any musician can create on a MySpace site.  He and many musicians have found the Internet to be the best home for their personal creative visions.

There was an article a few days ago in the LA Times by Randy Lewis about music Industry A&R guys.  Don Gierson, a music label veteran that teaches A&R classes at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, believes that it is critical now to understand and learn how to anticipate trends and harness new technologies to better serve the artists.  Jeff Blue, another seasoned pro and teacher there is quoted as saying the music industry is “evolving – and devolving-and more and more artists have to be their own record label.”  The article goes on to state that the harsh reality today is that few record companies have the time, money or interest to nurture acts anymore.  As I posted in a recent blog, we all have to be our own distributors.

We’re hearing the same thing in the film and television industry.  A new webisode series, FilmFellas, showcases influential and emerging new filmmakers discussing the challenges of the new independent film scene.  The full screen HD tells the story, it looks fantastic (I’m guessing the RED), a viewing pleasure.  We’re not going to be looking at compressed video much longer on YouTube.

The FilmFella guys and the A&R guys at the Musicians Institute are mentoring us all in how the Internet is changing entertainment.  I try to do this with this blog and the courses I teach at the Maine Media Workshops and with Jeff Seckendorf at One on One Film Training.  As the studios and record labels get bought up by congloms like Time Warner, News Corp., Disney, Viacom and Sony, we’re all discovering that we don’t need them anymore.

Well, okay we still need them financially, but hopefully not for long.  It still seems like the only way to make any money for your Internet projects is through sponsorships and advertising banners.  In these economic times, that money is not readily available.  Look at www.Hulu.com.  It’s television on the Web, with advertising.  It’s a great source for finding a television show or episode we may have missed, but at this point, no one is making any money from the convenience.  Which brings me to the potential SAG strike.  Because of all my actor friends, I promised myself I would stay out of that mess, but as I see traditional production slow down with the talk of another strike, I feel I must speak out.

I’m pro-union, a proud DGA member and certainly believe there are issues that need better resolution in the current contracts.  One of the biggest is how money is to be disseminated to the creative parties when projects are produced for the Internet.  The problem is, at this point in time, the Internet is a creative playground, but few are making any money including the big studios.  I think the WGA and DGA and even AFTRA were wise to table Internet discussions until the next contract meetings.  SAG should do the same.

Now is not the time to strike.  Too many other non-actors in this business will be affected, including Unconventional Media.  Few have recovered economically from the Writer’s strike.  SAG needs to work out their divisions within their own union first.  It’s getting ugly, according to the January 12th, Hollywood Reporter, SAG board member Frances Fisher (Mother in “Titanic“) distributed an email suggesting that SAG members use their upcoming SAG Award ballots to punish nominated actors — including Alec Baldwin, Steve Carell and Sally Field — who have advocated abandoning the strike-authorization vote.  Making it political, not about acting performance – for the SAG Awards.  Come on!  That’s just one example, it’s really become civil war.  Unify first please, before you put everyone out of work.

SAG needs to work with all of the other union members to get through these tough economic times instead of making them tougher.  Don’t sink the ship, Mama!  Go to www.nosagstrike.com for more information or go to the SAG website for SAG’s MembershipFirst side on authorizing the strike.

I agree that the Gatekeepers must change, let’s just be responsible and know what those changes really are going to be first.  As Tina Fey warned on The Golden Globe Awards last night, “there’s this thing called the Internet…”  It’s still in development.  I don’t believe you should set the rules before you know if the actual experiment worked.

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There is an interview with me on Unconventional Media and the production of “Need for Speed: Undercover” online for MovieMaker magazine.  Click on the magazine link.  We also talk about the RED camera and upcoming projects including the Paraplex in New Orleans and the feature film “Press>Play.”

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A quick follow up to the previous blog about webisodes.  I just started watching a series that went up in April that I think is outstanding.  “2009 A True Story”

The story is from two different perspectives, a young woman who has just recently moved to Los Angeles and her brother, a soldier stationed at Fort Irwin.  Martial Law has been declared because of a recent attack on Congress.  The future story seems very real, especially with a John McCain presidency.  Filming devices are incorporated to give the story some interesting visuals but also to give the series a real dramatic tension.  Extremely well done on a tight budget.  This is just another example of how good writing and smart creativity can make webisodes entertaining.

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I’m seeing more and more “webisode” television and it reminds me of my days in Los Angeles theater.  It’s up there, not as a staged experience or to even just entertain, but as a showcase.  The creator is actually hoping someone will discover their series and put it on Network television.  It’s content for the wrong medium.

In 2002, when I co-produced the documentary series “Senior Year” with David Zeiger for PBS, I also produced a series at KCET, based on the television show for the web.  At the time, our biggest challenge was how to make the series accessible and easy to view on home computers.  I faced those same problems when I presented my political narrative webseries “Unconventional.”  These days we’re past access and viewing issues, but I still haven’t made a dime from any of my webisodes.

I continue to develop webisodes and related content.  I’ve come to believe these two things:

1) that there is too much good free entertainment on the internet to expect anyone to pay for your webseries unless you’re Joss Whedon.

Sorry, but someone sends me a link, I usually take a few moments to see what they’ve created, but not if I have to pay on my credit card or Paypal.  I even hesitate if I have to enter my email and become a “member.”

2) Unless you don’t care about the costs (and this could be because you’re putting up the webisodes hoping to eventually sell the series to television, you know as a “showcase” of your incredible talent) you’ve got to find an advertising sponsor ( see reason #1).

Now, that’s not always easy, but take some time to figure out the marketing of your work.  In a recent issue of Hollywood Reporter, IAC/InterActiveCorp CEO Barry Diller talks about the Web as being in just the early stages of its potential as an advertising medium.  He doesn’t see banner advertising having any real success and believes Video ads will be targeted and interrupt programming, as well as playing before and after the content.  I’m seeing this happen more and more.  I don’t know about you, but as a filmmaker I hate a show being interrupted when I watch it on television and I certainly will hate it on the web, especially if it is my show.  However, if that is what it takes to get the money to produce the programming, then I’ll bite my lip and shut up.

So what’s a solution.  Well, after producing the live action elements to the upcoming EA video game “Need for Speed:Undercover,” I’m convinced that it is a waste of money to make webisodes look and feel like short three-four minutes of regular television.  Instead, it needs to be a whole different form of entertainment, a mixture of interactive gaming, virtual worlds, comedy, music, etc.  The viewer needs to say, “wow, I couldn’t have seen that being done any other way.”  You’ve got to want to stay at the web site and explore.  Then the banner ad does work on the site because it is not ignored but becomes part of the experience.  You can even have a commercial, not in the content of the video, but in the interactive content.  This stuff requires a lot of thought and planning, but I’m seeing some great cross-over.  I think it’s evident on the Need for Speed and Which Road to Take sites.

We’re developing some of these ideas (still very much in development) on the PressPlayMovie site, with ChanneledObsession.com as the marketing portion.  On all these sites, things keep changing so the site becomes more interactive and worth a return visit.  You build on that.  It can’t be just a new episode of television, it’s got to be a bigger experience.

I’m very interested in any other thoughts on these ideas.

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