Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Public Radio -- is devoted to creating a "new public radio."

No one knows what form journalism is going to take in the future. The only thing that seems certain is that the huge-behemoth-corporate-entity newspapers are going away. might be a new model of journalism.

Excellent interviews, journalism tips, and reviews of tools.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Going Where Your Audience is…

If you know exactly who your core audience is, you can go to them and start a conversation.

If you can start a conversation, you can build a fan base.

If you have a fan base, you can survive as an artist.

Here are seven steps to "Going where your audience is."


Go where your audience is...

A key idea in "digital media distribution" for artists is "Go where your audience is."

This idea applies to artists of all kinds... writers, architects, filmmakers, sculptors, painters... in short, anyone creating intellectual works.

There are seven steps involved in "going where your audience is."

1. Know your who your core audience is...
2. Go where they are...
3. Have conversations with them...
4. Gain their trust...
5. Gain permission to share your work...
6. Share your work...
7. Slowly build a core audience of fans by continuing the conversations, and helping them achieve their goals.

When you have a core audience of fans, you can survive as an artist. True fans will support and promote you as long as you don't violate their trust.

When to put your book online

If I can get people to open my books and read them, my book sales go up. Every time.

If your book is facing a crowded field, why not try putting your books online--or at least sample chapters--and see what happens. It is one way to get people to "open your book" and read it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A fourth way to finance your film

Finding money for a first-time independent film is always a problem. People generally use one of three options.

  1. Borrowed money. Lately, borrowed money is generally impossible to get, and when you can get it, the terms are awful. Banks don't want to lend to first-time filmmakers, and credit cards generally have interest rates and collection policies that would make a loan shark blush. Borrowing from friends and relatives is a good way to destroy relationships.
  2. Selling your interest in the film. You might sell the film (or script) to a studio. Or you might be able to form a corporation dedicated to producing the film and sell shares in the corporation.
  3. Outright donations. The policy of "everything for free." Actors and crew work for free, location owners donate locations for free, supporters donate spaghetti dinners to the crew, and no one expects to ever see anything beyond a credit on the finished film.

Seth Godin has an idea for another way to raise money.

He writes…

"…I'd like you to consider the idea of selling part of your income.

"It works like this: you have an idea, a fledgling business or a new market to enter. You find an amateur investor (a wealthy dentist, a retired executive) and raise the money to bring it to market. And in return? The investor gets $xx for every unit you sell. From the first one until forever." You can read the whole post, here.

One option would be to offer $XX for every ticket, DVD and download sold.

Where this scheme gets tricky is rights sales... things like cable, broadcast, video on demand and foreign rights. I will write more about rights in another post.

Preparing for the second edition of your book

After a year or more of writing and researching you attach the Word file of your final manuscript to an email, and press SEND. The book is finally on its way to the publisher.

In the next few weeks and months you may be working with the publisher's editors and beginning book promotion.

There's a tendency now to forget about the original Word file. Don't do it!

Instead, save the file to CD. Put one copy in a safe place offsite. Keep a second CD on file in your office. A third copy of the file goes on your computer. Rename the file "Second Edition." Over the next year or so, you will inevitably find things in the manuscript that you want to correct, rewrite, or delete. As you find these things, make the changes in the "Second Edition" file you just saved.

When the publisher comes back to you in 18 or 24 months and asks you to prepare the second edition, you will be ready.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Use a book blog to promote your book

A book blog is one of the simplest, cheapest, most powerful ways you can promote your book. (The master of the book blog is Seth Godin.) Here are a few tips for creating your own successful book blog:

1. When you sign up for the blog, use the book name (or your name) for the email and blog address.
This makes it easier for readers to remember your name and your address. For example, my main blog address is

2. Use your book title and subtitle as the title of the blog.
Thus, the ideal blog title for my book Digital Video Secrets would be: Digital Video Secrets: What the pros know and the manuals don't tell you. This makes it easier for readers to find the blog when they do a Google search on the book title.

3. Make it easy for your reader to buy the book.
Put an image of the book cover and a spiffy yellow "BUY NOW" button in the upper left side near the top of the blog. Perceptual studies show that is the "hottest" spot on a web page. People will look there and click there before any other spot on the page. For an example of how to use this "hot corner." Here's a good example of how to use the upper left-hand corner of the web page.

4. Write short posts, and post frequently.
Instead of posting one 800 word entry once a week, write five 150 word posts and post them five times a week. When writing for the web, serve your meal a bite at a time instead of a plate at a time.

5. Start your book blog as early as possible.
Start a book blog the day you start researching your book. During the months before the book is published, write about your research. In the months after the book is published, write about new things you learn, answer reader questions, and announce events like book signings and house parties.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Filmmaking for money or for love?

Are you making your film for money or for love?

High quality, inexpensive tools like the HD cameras, digital recorders and compact sound studios mean that almost anyone can make a film.

A feature-length independent film made for money, and intended for theatrical release, can easily take a year or two to complete, involve dozens of skilled professionals, and cost several hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars.

A feature-length independent film made for love and intended only to go on Vimeo or YouTube can be made in a month for less than a thousand dollars. For airfare, car rentals, and lunch for the cast, you can have the footage for a 90 minute film "in the can." Everyone involved knows that the likelihood of a financial return is zero. All anyone really expects in return is an adventure, some great stories and maybe their names in the credits at the end of the film.

If the film is being made for money, however, expectations change. The expectation of return on investment may tempt the filmmaker to do expensive and risky things… things like mortgage the house, max out credit cards, or take a loan on mom and dad's 401K. The risk is justified in everyone's mind because of the expected return. If the film earns money, everyone is delighted. If it returns zero, lives are changed and relationships may be destroyed.

A labor of love is one thing. An investment is something else.

Always be very clear about money. Especially with yourself.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Three good reasons to work for free

There are times when it makes good sense to work for free.

1. You are out of work. Working as a volunteer will give you experience, contacts, and possibly a new career.

2. You want to make a film about something you truly believe in. In the digital age, media and distribution are essentially free. If you don't expect any money in return, you can make just about any film you'd like.

3. The economy sucks. The economy always sucks, someplace. If you happen to be in one of those places why not work as a volunteer for a while? Find something interesting and do it. When the economy picks up in one or two or five years you will have new skills, a portfolio and a list of accomplishments.

The trick to making this all work is to truly understand that you are working for free. Expect nothing in return. Just do the job, joyfully.

Friday, November 13, 2009

When your name becomes a brand

Over the past two years I have been promoting my digital filmmaking books by speaking, writing, and showing up at events like trade shows. Yesterday someone pointed out that along the way my name has become my "brand."

Everything you do in the Internet age builds your "brand". When you write an Amazon review, post on FaceBook or write a blog entry, you are building your "brand."

So, what kind of brand are you? Knowledgeable, trustworthy and honest? Or something else? Whether you like it or not, your name is your brand.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Digital media creators and their audiences

Scott Kirsner lists four key ideas about the relationship between digital media creators and their audience in the Internet age:

1. The Internet is an engine for participation and engagement.
A good way to create involvement is to blog and post videos regularly. When you blog, remember that the Internet is not about creating content it's about creating community.

2. If you invite people to help you, they will help you.
This is the amazing thing about the Internet. People will actually help you, if you are doing something interesting and if you ask.

3.Go where your audience is.
Figure out who your core audience is and where they are on the Internet. Go to them and build relationships.

4. Leverage the power of an audience database.
For example, filmmaker Robert Greenwald went to and built an audience by leveraging the mailing list.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Crash course in film distribution

Just back from a Peter Broderick and Scott Kirsner's one-day crash course in film distribution at USC.

The Internet has changed everything. Now, the filmmaker can--and must--have an ongoing conversation with fans, friends and followers. *Huge* implications for anyone who needs to find and connect with fans--including writers, artists, social entrepreneurs and filmmakers.

Much to process. Mind chock full of new information.