View this email in your browser
Sub-Genre Media Newsletter:
Semi-frequent musings on indie film, media, branded content and related items from Brian Newman.

In This Issue

Brian Newman & Sub-Genre Media

Learn more about Brian Newman & Sub-Genre at 

Keep Up With Brian:

Cleveland Rocks – or How to Run a Great Film Festival

I’m just back from five days of being on the Nesnady + Schwartz "Portrait" Doc Jury for the Cleveland International Film Festival, and it reminded me once again of how important regional film festivals are to independent film.
Unfortunately, if you want to copy CIFF and run a great festival, you might just have to move your festival to Cleveland. So much about what makes them great is because of the local community. The audiences are amazing, with over 108,000 attendees, and it was common for mid-afternoon, weekday screenings of obscure documentaries to sell-out a 300 seat theater – the people of Cleveland love films. There’s something about being near the Great Lakes that feeds cinema lovers – because Cleveland audiences remind me of those in Toronto, another great festival city that is somehow better known.
And the City supports the arts. The main museums are free, and the Cuyahoga County Arts Council – Cuyahoga Arts and Culture (CAC) – is one of the largest public funders of the arts in the US. Beyond the government support, the majority of the festival’s sponsors are locally based corporations. Indeed, the festival’s $3.3 Million cash budget is made up of largely local support (with in-kind support, their budget is over $4.4 million).
Most importantly, the board supports the organization, with a full 10% of their funding coming from their board. Having been involved with some (ahem, deadbeat) boards, I can tell you, that’s an amazing amount. You can have great programming, but without a supportive board (meaning with cash), you won’t get far and too fests are saddled with well-meaning volunteers instead of board leaders who can give/get or get off.
In addition, local members make up 13% of their funding; heck, the local community contributed $150,000 towards a challenge match during the festival (making it $300K with the match).
Of course, you won’t get this kind of community support without great programming and a hard-working staff behind the scenes, which the festival has as well. The core festival leadership has been working at CIFF for as many as twenty years or more, each – and this isn’t dead-wood, but a sign of committed staff who love their community and their festival.
Aside from hiring great people, many of these things are hard to duplicate in every town/city to make a great festival. But CIFF does a lot of other things right, many of which can be duplicated. Here’s just a few:
  • Doing fundraising right – one last thing about their fundraising – they do it right. They only ask for donations once a year, instead of bugging you with fundraising emails every week. And they do it before every show, pointing out that the cost of the fest is about $50 per seat – way less than the ticket price, and that makes it real for the audience, and people opened their wallets.
  • Hospitality – the fest has a great hospitality room, and its open all day to not just filmmakers and VIP sponsors, but also to members and badge holders, with free coffee, food, beer and even ice cream. They put everyone up in great hotels, central to the festival and show people a good time. And like any good festival, they have great parties – keep the filmmakers drunk and they’ll love you.
  • Central locations – apparently, CIFF is the largest festival under one roof in the USA (if not the world), and that helps a lot. While the festival expanded to two outside locations this year, most of the festival takes place at the Tower Center. Yes, it’s a half-dying mall, but for the life of the festival, it’s a convenient one-stop shop for all things film, with plenty of parking.  And if you’re visiting from out-of-town, you can find plenty to do within walking distance.
  • Great programming, serving its audience – this should go without saying, we all know you need good programming. But I’ve been to many festivals where the programming is more reflective of its programmer’s taste than its local audience. There’s a difference between challenging your audience here and there and being a snob. Cleveland has the right balance.
  • Multiple Audience Awards – the festival had four juried competitions (three made up of out of towners), but the rest of the awards are decided by the audience. That’s rare and smart - put the audience in charge, and it pays back when they actually show up for the awards ceremony. See all the winners here.
I’ve run and/or been involved with a few film festivals. Inevitably, some well-meaning board member always says – we should aim to be more like Sundance. But I maintain that the US only needs one Sundance. What we really need are a lot more Cleveland’s.

Stuff I'm Reading

The Sky Is Rising: The Entertainment Industry Is Thriving, Almost Entirely Because Of The Internet - TechDirt reminds us that years ago, Hollywood was sure the Net would drive them out of business - just like VHS tape - only to learn once again that new tech always helps the bottom line (while destroying many legacy business models).
How Vimeo shifted from being a YouTube alternative to a $160m B2B player - This one is all pro-Vimeo, but given that everyone I know is trading links now instead of Vimeo, and their ad campaign sucks horribly, I am counting them in the “fire sale” bin pretty soon. But maybe Digiday has it right, not me.
“Her Smell’s writer-director breaks down the stark reality that film distribution today is an inequitable system that excludes almost everyone. This one’s made the rounds, including the Sundance newsletter, but just in case you missed it, Alex Ross Perry explains how First Reformed shows how f-d we are these days.
Stacy Spikes finally gives his views on what went on at MoviePass - Jason Guerassio at BusinessInsider has all the news you need to know on what worked  -and then what didn’t work  -at MoviePass. Especially interesting is his claim that they verified giving AMC 100% lift in customers, and probably brought up the box office overall by a 5% lift. If true, astounding. It’s also a sad read about how a brand with amazing customer loyalty could kill it all within less than a year.
How you kill a brand in one photo:

Branded Content
Are Brands missing out on OTT? Yes, says OpenX Chief Communication and Brand Officer Dallas Lawrence to Forbes. As he points out: “Last year, brands spent $70 billion advertising to television audiences, mostly using a media strategy that look more like 1995 than 2018. “Only 5% of all ad dollars go to OTT, even though more than 50% of the audience is there,” he tells them. And his company’s data also shows that while nearly 50% of audiences would pay $10 to skip ads on OTT, 25% prefer a free service with ads, and 29% want a hybrid model with a few ads and a lower monthly cost. Expect to see more brands in your OTT feed, and smart ones should be funding original content in these systems, or they’re missing out on most of their potential viewers.
Lush UK has decided to move away from social media, reports Econsultancy. Lush smartly says it doesn’t want to pay to end up in your feed, and notes that they want to inspire more conversation, not less. Econsultancy analyzes the pros and cons, as well as whether its just a stunt, but I say kudos to anyone who stops polluting my feed with sponsored posts.
Are ‘documercials’ the future of branded content? Mehdi Elaichouni argues that not only are documentaries about brands more effective branded content than narrative stories, they can also serve as a saving grace for companies in PR Trouble (i.e Dirty Money)
Why brands are turning to Amazon Prime Video to distribute their own content - hint: they can control their distribution and it’s easy to do.
Copyright © 2019 Brian Newman, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp