If you want to be creative, write for television – Sundance London

The Hollywood Reporter recently highlighted the challenges of indie filmmaking on both sides of the Pond these days.

A Hollywood Reporter article recently highlighted the challenges of indie filmmaking on both sides of the Pond these days. In the US, the studios continue to look for ‘safe’ material. In the UK, even government financing doesn’t solve all of the problems for filmmakers wanting to create more challenging films.

From a panel on the state of independent film at Sundance London, it sounds like depressing days for filmmakers trying to get ambitious work made and distributed in the US, and the UK. However, if you can avoid the siren’s song of theatrical release, you may be able to find a home for your creative vision.

While several panelists highlighted that the Oscars of late have seen many indies with leading numbers of nominations, [James Marsh (Man on Wire)] said the studio system in the U.S. has in many cases stopped consciously pursuing indie-type projects. “Narrative risky work has moved to TV,” and great filmmakers are finding freedom on television, he said. “A lot of good writing is done in American TV, too. The studios have given up on this.”

He said while “there are great films being made even in that system,” great scripts often don’t end up making it to the screen – or only in weakened form. “The system is just there doing what it’s doing. Great scripts…they will either ruin them or never do them.”

MissionFest Toronto – The Enemy God Screening

The Enemy God tells the amazing true story of a Yanomamö shaman and the spiritual battle for freedom for his people. If you are in the Toronto area, you won’t want to miss this special event.

We’re please to announce a special screening of our film, The Enemy God, in Toronto on February 19th. That’s next Saturday night. It is hosted by MissionFest Toronto and will be held at Catch The Fire Ministries.

The Enemy God tells the amazing true story of a Yanomamö shaman and the spiritual battle for freedom for his people. If you are in the Toronto area, you won’t want to miss this special event. Here’s what ministry leaders have said about the film:

“This is an intense film. It is sometimes graphic; sometimes heart wrenching,  but always engaging… expect to experience   a perspective you’ve  never felt before.” – Doug Lucas, Missions Leader, Team Expansion

“…the point of Shake’s testimony is very clear. Sinful man without Christ is frightening and abhorrent. Evil spirits control him. Jesus Christ brings health, peace, and prosperity, even to isolated people like the Yanomamö.” – Dr. Ted Baehr, Movieguide.org

More information about the screening can be found at: MissionFest Toronto – The Enemy God.

Muslim, Christian Artists Journeying Together

The Arts can serve as one of the most effective mediums to build bridges of respect, understanding, sharing and friendship between East and West, Muslims and Christians.

What if we really listened to each others’ stories, saw things through others’ eyes; would it make a difference in the world?

Here’s an encouraging arts festival, beginning Feb 3 in Cairo. I wish I could be there!

Caravan 

Encouraging East and West, Muslims and Christians, to journey together through the Arts

The Arts can serve as one of the most effective mediums to build bridges of respect, understanding, sharing and friendship between East and West, Muslims and Christians. Therefore, Caravan was started by Paul-Gordon Chandler as an informal catalyst to explore and encourage the interplay between Faith and the Arts—and more specifically within the context of interfaith, encouraging Muslims and Christians to journey together through the Arts…thereby seeing the Arts used to facilitate intercultural and inter-religious dialogue.

Check out the web site: Caravan Festival of the Arts

Belize Benefit Screening of “The Enemy God”

Folks in Belize are rightly proud of the work they did on our film, The Enemy God. We’re pleased that they’ve selected the film as part of this special benefit festival. This is from a note we received this week from the festival Director:

THE RADISSON FORT GEORGE HOTEL, THE BELIZE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL and the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF CULTURE AND HISTORY are collaborating to present a selection of  films made in Belize – during the month of September, 2010 – which as you know is a month of national pride for us. All entrance  proceeds from this screening will go to the Stella Marris School of  Special Education in Belize City.

Your  film THE ENEMY GOD has been pre-selected to be a part of this special screening.

The work our K’ekchi’ Maya actors and our many other Belizean crew members did on the film is a testimony to their creativity and dedication. As indigenous people, constantly looked down-upon by others, our friends told us that the film proves that the K’ekchi’ are capable of great things. Now, once again, the people of Belize will have a chance to see the fruit of our labors together.

Festival Invitation for The Enemy God

One of our alternate posters

It’s always nice when someone invites you to submit your film to a festival. We have not been submitting The Enemy God since late 2008, but are feeling that some more festival exposure might help get the word out and give us something to talk about! Waiting for distribution deals from our sales agent is an exercise in perseverance.

I got an e-mail today from the First Nations Festival in Montreal, Canada. They are looking for indigenous-themed and/or produced films. We have enjoyed the indigenous festivals we have been in so we thought this sounded like a good opportunity.

Patience, a Gift No One Wants to Earn

Our film just received a great review from a well-known critic. I can’t publish it yet because they’re proofing it and haven’t told us of a release date. But, I want to give just a hint (from a very comprehensive review) here:

THE ENEMY GOD is a low budget but very well made movie. It cares deeply about authenticity and achieves that goal with the set direction, the battle scenes, and the portrayals of the Yanomamö. … The script is powerful… THE ENEMY GOD is much better than most Hollywood movies.

This is one of the great stories. It is a highly recommended movie.

The main reason I’m posting this today is because I have been reminded of the value of patience and persistence. We’ve been working on this film for almost 8 years. That’s crazy! And it will never be a blockbuster commercial success; we know that.

When we got the e-mail with the review today, we passed it on to our Writer/Director, Christopher Bessette. He deserves the accolades. And here’s what he wrote back to me, in part:

You know that you and Matt have made a completely unconventional movie. It is cutting edge because no one has done something like this before. People don’t realize it yet – but the film will have longevity because of it. Like it has been said before they will be looking it up in 200 years in the history books. People don’t realize it now but slowly and eventually it will grow and grow and they will.

Zaven (Katchaturian) from the Arpa Film Festival told me personally that they were considering giving the actors awards but then they began to question as to whether or not they were watching reality or drama.  When they realized it was drama they gave me the award. That was very kind of them… and it is a God thing for sure, but trust me… eventually it will come to pass that greater masses will realize what this means.

Isaiah 55:11 – God’s Word will not return empty but it will accomplish that for which He sent it.

God is with us!

What Christopher’s note reminded me of is that, just because I’m tired of working one more day to make this film a reality, writing more e-mails trying to get attention for the story, Twittering and Facebooking without huge followings, God is working through the film. Matt and I began it with the assumption that it was totally out of our league and was something God needed to do. He did, and continues to make His story known in wider and wider circles, where it is still unknown.

Do we have the patience and perseverance to see things through? Sometimes I think I know when God is saying to just quit something. Other times, I depend on His Spirit to confirm that, even though the breakthrough hasn’t yet come, it doesn’t mean that God has changed His mind.



Mysteries of AdWords for Indie Film

I have not read a lot of articles on the use of AdWords to promote smaller indie films. I’m sure it is being done, but I’d be interested to hear more about what has worked and what pitfalls may exist.

I have not read a lot of articles on the use of AdWords to promote smaller indie films. I’m sure it is being done, but I’d be interested to hear more about what has worked and what pitfalls may exist.

We have just begun to develop Google AdWords campaigns for our film, The Enemy God. We worked our way through festivals, found a sales agent, and are now working on some hybrid self-distribution. That is, we have sold the worldwide rights to the film but we retained the right to sell DVDs on our own sites. Therefore, we want to build our own, very specific, audiences through targeted marketing – and encourage them to check us out and buy a DVD!

There are a few things that attract me to strategies like AdWords:

  • You are able to target and customize your ads to your unique audience. (If you can’t identify and target a fairly narrow market, you may still have some thinking to do. It’s not wise to try to just say, “My film will appeal to everyone.” You don’t want to be using keywords like, “comedy film”, or “horror”!)
  • You can manage your expenses by establishing your own budget and you only pay for clicks, not impressions. The beauty of this is that you can avoid being stuck with an ad that just doesn’t work. You can tweak and re-shape an ad campaign on-the-fly or just cancel it if it’s not working for you.
  • There are tools to help you figure out if your ad is working: are people coming to the site, which phrases are attracting people, and what pages of your site are most interesting.

Our film is very out-of-the-ordinary, so that helps us in some ways. I have never seen a narrative film like it; we tell an indigenous story from the Amazon rainforest. We are working with keyword phrases that would not normally be used for indie films, such as: indigenous culture, Yanomami, and the names of famous anthropologists who are connected with the tribe. You can’t do that with a suburban romantic comedy or thriller; I think it’s a more difficult challenge to come up with unique keywords to help promote a more mainstream film. We are hoping that we can take advantage of our out-of-the-ordinary themes to help target ads to folks who might be interested in our film.

We’re only beginning to get enough data to get a good sense of what’s working and what’s not and are thinking of how to tweak ads, landing pages of our web site, messages on the site, etc. to help folks who do click on the ad to ‘stick’ with us in some significant way. We want to develop true fans as well as sell DVDs.

I’ll post again with examples of results we are seeing and what we seem to be doing right and wrong.