New Inaugural Hollywood Online Film Festival Announces Call for Entries: Exposure Launches Careers and Builds Fan Bases – Exclusive Q&A with Keith Mitchell
Conducted by Jody Michelle Solis, StudentFilmmakers Magazine
What does NUHO Online Film Festival aim to achieve this year with the festival?
Keith Mitchell: We aim to prove to the film community and the Hollywood industry that there is a better way at positioning indie films for success. One of the biggest complaints we hear about festivals is that there is a lack of personal touch with the filmmakers. Understandably the festivals that really matter have become cottage industries themselves and are more concerned with their bottom line then the films they select. It’s the exposure that matters. Exposure launches careers and builds fan bases. Our goal this year is to put NuHo on the radar of the film community. If we do our job right and get the word out you will have millions of people worldwide discovering your films. Now that’s what we call exposure. We are hoping to create a new word in the marketplace. It’s call “Festibution.”
How do you help filmmakers?
Keith Mitchell: Great question! In fact our distribution company was born out of seeing my writing career disappear after the writer’s guild strike in 2008. Several of my writer friends used that time away to make indies. They got distribution and then were shocked at what happened after they sold their films. It became clear to me how much indie filmmakers need to understand exactly how distribution works. We created a model that involves full transparency and offering a percentage of our take to theaters in exchange for a two-week theatrical commitment. Basically, I said to theater owners, how would you like to get paid on a film over a long stretch of time in exchange for a theatrical run. I knew I was onto something when a theater chain said that is as crazy of an idea as when I heard they were going to sell DVD out of a vending machine. We then leverage the domestic theatrical release for high licensing deals on all the other ancillary markets. Basically, instead of pitting the three elements of filmmaking against each other – Production, Distribution and Exhibition – we are marrying them. Everyone wins or loses together. We are fusing the traditional theatrical experience with the new digital experience. Industry professionals accustomed to the “old way” will tell you these two platforms cannot co-exist. We are here to prove them wrong. Our goal is to galvanize change and set a new system in place for how films receive exposure and distribution.
For years filmmakers have been taken advantage of by the traditional Hollywood system. We pride ourselves by being known as a distribution company with an independent filmmaker’s mentality. We come from the artist’s stand point and understand the artist’s frustration. Film festivals are huge revenue generators – but does a filmmaker ever see a penny? No. Filmmakers get so caught up in the pomp and circumstance of the Hollywood BS and politics that they forget the business side of their film. We at NuHo think filmmakers should get a piece of the action. After all, without your films there is no festival.
How important is the internet for filmmakers?
Keith Mitchell: The internet opens the door for filmmakers by increasing their ability to share their work with the world. Over the past year alone there have been 160 digital online platforms that have allowed filmmakers to upload their films, set a price point and sell their content. The tech world has recognized that content is king and created a way for filmmakers to monetize it. Now this should be the stop on the food chain, but it’s still a viable option. We started NUHO online festival because we understood that world has shrunk because of the internet. Filmmakers no longer have to hire big PR firms to promote their films. They can now launch a campaign and if they are creative enough they can gain real traction for their films.
|Film Distribution Landscape
3 Important Things New and Emerging
~from Keith Mitchell
I will be specific and harsh. These are things that most distributors never tell you. Don’t get me wrong, there are many great distribution companies that can and will treat your baby well. But be prepared to do the work yourself or find a company like New Hollywood entertainment which acts as a hybrid between traditional and DIY.
[1.] Before you decide to make a movie build into your budget another 25% for distribution. Filmmakers need to work backwards. Figure out how you will release your film on your own. This will give you more bargaining power if, say a Lionsgate comes sniffing around. You are only as powerful as your ability to say no. But with that being said, I can’t tell you how many filmmakers I talk to who are just looking for a better date to the dance. Please don’t do that. Set your goals early and stick to them.
[2.] You will not make your money back as quickly as you like, if at all. Furthermore, if you sell your film to one of the big companies you will never see another penny, so you better get a large minimum guarantee. This is a fact. Here is the reason why. For every one dollar a distributor spends on releasing your film they will charge back two dollars to the filmmakers. The recoupables will never be covered and filmmakers will never see another penny. But if you have addressed your expectations then perhaps it is worth it to you to have a mini major take your film to market, because afterall, this will certainly help you with your next film for raising capital or securing representation. Distributors work hard and spend real money getting your film to market.
[3.] Film Festivals are an important spoke in the wheel of filmmaking. But unless you have a high profile star or a powerful agent, the chances of qualifying for any of the top festivals is rare. I love Sundance, Toronto and South by Southwest. You should attend some of the major festivals and mingle and maybe rub shoulders with a programmer. Be nice and buy them a drink. You never know where that would lead to in the future when you have film to submit. Too often, filmmakers wait to attend these festivals when they have a film. Be proactive and not reactive.
What sets NUHO Online Film Festival apart from other film festivals?
Keith Mitchell: Essentially from a business standpoint, you can think of NUHO as the NETFILX of film festivals. I’m sure from reading everything thus far, that you get the picture that we just want to offer up something original and different to the filmmaking community and try to put control back into the filmmaker’s hands. What I really want to stress is that if your film is selected you can then work with us to start promoting the project. Historically, if your film were to play at other festivals, you could only promote to those attending the festival. Well now, you can promote to everybody. And trust me when I say I am not delusional to think that in the very near future, I believe online festivals will be very prominent is the space. That is, unless we don’t screw up the experience for everyone.
What are some key elements that can make a really strong and solid film submission? What is NUHO Online Film Festival looking for in film submissions?
Keith Mitchell: I always suggest to filmmakers to put together a test screening in your garage, local school or in your neighborhood coffee shop and invite non-friends and families to watch your film. You would be surprised at how many people use the festival circuit submissions as their test screenings. When they get rejected they wonder why and it’s hard to get an answer at most festivals. These screenings will tell you what is working and what is not. On a side note, don’t let the people watching know that you are the filmmaker. They will be more honest with you.
You only get one shot at a first impression. Often time’s filmmakers lose all objectivity with a project because they are too close to the project. I could say story is best, or production value is great but at the end of the day making the perfect movie is really tough. You will not be able to serve everybody. But you will be able to show the world that you know how to make a feature film. That is quite an endeavor. The world needs to be entertained. So make sure you are entertaining. Don’t bore people into passing. If you want to create art, then go become an artist.
But if I had one piece of advice it would be to make sure all rights and clearances are in order and all deliverables are organized.
If you could share some advice or pointers in relation to “story” what would you share with filmmakers submitting to the NUHO Online Film Festival?
Keith Mitchell: Story is perhaps the most important aspect of a film. As a working screenwriter for almost 20 years you would think I know all there is to story. But I don’t. What I do know is that every story needs to answer a question by the end of the movie. And that question needs to be very clearly stated in the first act.
Story is subjective. But I would encourage new filmmakers to think about who their audience is that they are trying to engage. You will often hear people say, tell stories that you’re are passionate about. I agree, but if you are passionate about squirrels in the Himalayas you better come up with an interesting narrative because most people could give a darn about that.
I hate to sound like a business man but filmmakers need to think audience, not commercial, but audience. When you make an urban comedy, you know your audience. A horror movie, you know your audience. A family film, you know your audience. Too often I see these small quirky adult dramas that most people never seek out. Trust me as a distributor those are tough sells.
And finally, yes there are exceptions to all the rules. But for every Paranormal Activity there are thousands that fall through the cracks. For every Napoleon Dynamite, there are thousands that fall flat on their face. I say this because the gift of filmmaking should never be in the end result. It should be in the endeavor itself. Enjoy the process, learn from the process and grow from the process. If this is really something you want to do with the rest of your life then expect failure, be pleasantly surprised by success and enjoy the ride.
“We are hoping to create a new word in the marketplace. It’s called, ‘Festibution’.” ~Keith Mitchell
|Film Distribution AdviceKeith Mitchell Shares His Insights
Figure out your personal agenda before you start shooting a frame of film or raise money. If your goal is to get an agent and get in the game on larger scale then accept that as a goal. If your agenda is to become rich and famous and walk a red carpet then go buy lottery ticket. One of the most important things I say to young students is that you can’t get into this business because it’s just something you ‘want’ to do. It has to be something you ‘have’ to do. It all starts with managing your expectations. The good news is with the explosion of the online platform there has never been more places for people to see your films. Stay positive, focused and manage your expectations. If you can do these things, you will not be disappointed.
Ninety-nine percent of all independent films will never get a theatrical release. That is the cold hard truth. It’s surprising to me when I meet with filmmakers and all they want to hear is how many theaters their film is going to play in. The reality is that while seeing your film play in a theater is cool, it’s not the benchmark for success. More people will see your movie on VOD or in the ancillary markets then will ever discover your film in a theater. Now keep in mind, getting on the other platforms like Netflix, Redbox and Hulu is challenging as well. That’s why we created our model of offering theaters a piece of the action because a theatrical all but ensures a release on some of the other higher profile home entertainment platforms.
|2013 NuHo Online Film Festival Highlights
But most importantly, NuHo brings a personal touch. Every film is watched and specially curated. NuHo is not like the big festivals that receive thousands of dollars in submission fee revenue and only watch a handful of films. NuHo watches every film and wants to offer a personal touch to the filmmaker.
For more information, click here.
|Keith Mitchell currently serves as CEO of New Hollywood Entertainment (NUHO), a distributor of quality independent films to the public on all distribution platforms. His experience in Hollywood spans over 20 years both as a screenwriter and producer. Upon the heels of the Writer’s Guild Strike of 2008, Mitchell ventured into the independent film landscape only to recognize that there was an inherent problem in the process of quality independent films making it into movie theaters. Hence the NUHO model was born.Mitchell penned the studio features “Eddie,” “Mr. 3000,” “Dr. Doolittle 3,” “Like Mike 2: Streetball,” and “The Sandlot: Heading Home.” He has set up projects as a producer in both TV and film at most of the major studios.A University of Michigan alumnus where he played in two Rose Bowls, Mitchell prides himself on this quote by his legendary football coach, Bo Schembechler.“By your own soul, learn to live. If some men force you, take no heed. If some men hate you, have no care. Sing your song, dream your dreams. Hope your hopes, and pray your prayers.”~Bo Schembechler|
Featured in StudentFilmmakers Magazine, 2013, Volume 8, No. 2 Edition.
Sign Up for your own subscription to StudentFilmmakers Magazine.