Craig Brewer at Indie Memphis 09
Craig Brewer moderated Saturday afternoon's Cafe Conversation on Filmmaking for the Web with Cory McAbee (Stingray Sam, The American Astronaut), Edward Valibus Phillips (The Conversion) and Joe Swanberg Alexander the Last, Amateur Hour with Joe Swanberg).
The short take: If you thought you had to be creative to make a film, just wait'll you have to think about distribution.
Films are being made for screens of all sizes. "Stingray Sam," for example, was purposely designed to show on all formats -- theater screen to phone screen, full-length or episodic.
"Young American Bodies" has shown that it's possible to be successful making films for the Web (more later about how "success" is defined).
And locally, "The Conversion" joins "$5 Cover" and "On the Edge of Happiness" as Webisode productions.
McAbee on merchandising: We've always made music films and now there are different ways for people to hear music. We have these widgets and people can hear some songs from the soundtrack to listed to for free. We also have a making-of series, a kind of Webisode where every week there's a new three-minute documentary of the process of making the film. We have little packages of things you can get for Stingray Sam although someone had a idea for a package where you could get everything at once -- soundtrack, DVD, T-shirt, photo book and downloads. That's what most people are buying.
Swanberg on censorship:
I've been lucky. I first did a show for nerve.com, an adult place. They had no restrictions. We sent the show and they put it on line. IFC, however, is owned by Rainbow Media Network and there is more concern. (Swanberg sent one show to them that included a scene that got their attention). … I got a call from IFC. "We can't put a shot of a woman spreading her legs like that," the guy said. I said, what do you want me to do, take it out? He said, yeah and I said OK, I'd like to put a censor bar over it. He said I couldn't, they were IFC and the slogan is "Always, Uncut." I said, if I remove this, I'm going to be vocal about it in interviews. They came back later and said I could keep it in. I had to fight the fight sometimes and be stubborn. I'm sure it will happen again as we push beyond their comfort level. It's more important to me to make the show I want to than to be on IFC.
McAbee on technology:
In 1976, everything happened musically. Elvis died, there were the Sex Pistols, rap was beginning. Since then there have been no new genres. It used to be every generation's duty to not represent the one before, but the past two decades it's been reworking of these genres. What young people are doing new is embracing technology and consuming things in new and different ways. They're starting to dictate how they consume and create how they consume.
Swanberg on presentation:
I'll keep creating for the Web. Anybody in world can go watch it. The other option is what someone like Crispin Glover is doing, no DVD, no bootleg and giving live presentations and charging cash. It makes it really difficult to see but it's an experience to see it. Every feature I've shot I've know will end as a DVD. But for small format, I emphasize closeups and bold solid colors and thinking about compression since they'll go on a two-inch screen.
McAbee on success:
Longevity -- if people want to watch for a long time, if, after five years, people are still interested.
Brewer on success:
When you open up the trade press or newspapers, they tell you who won the race over numbers, usually in the arts. Ask yourself if that is your meter. … You can't compete with a kitten getting a million views -- that's not good business. It's a longevity question. You establish your brand on your own terms.
Phillips on success:
If you play on YouTube the thing is if you go viral. If you do, YouTube sends you an invitation for revenue sharing. And you get a banner and three cents a view.