7 Questions with CEO, Festival Director, and Producer, Benjamin Oberman
1. FFF: How did you get into the entertainment industry?
BENJAMIN: I started as an athlete (pairs) on the US Figure Skating Team. That led to an opportunity working for ABC Sports which lasted two years. I learned a lot, but wasn’t ready to be behind the camera. I had a professional career performing on stage more than one thousand times before catching the producing bug. I started with live production then made for TV sports events. My career evolved into producing scripted TV and film, commercials and documentaries. When I noticed an increasing number of great films failing to reach audiences beyond the film festival circuit, I started a distribution company to improve the system and champion quality films.
2. FFF: What do you like best about your work?
BENJAMIN: I love the people I meet and with whom I work. I love the stories they tell and the films I see. I love the creativity involved in all we do and the challenge of connecting films and audiences.
3. FFF: Where do you find inspiration?
BENJAMIN: I find inspiration in nature, when hiking, running, and climbing in the mountains, in the quiet moments before the sun rises, and in observing others as I move through life.
4. FFF: How would you describe your style of work?
BENJAMIN: I like to work collaboratively. Once I have a clear vision, I’m very strong in building the best team possible with everyone working toward our common goal. I think I have a quiet intensity. I rarely yell or criticize, but I expect everyone to give everything they have and to execute at the highest degree. I pull [...]
1. FFF: How did you get into your industry (skateboard/filmmaker)?
ARIAN: I got into skateboarding as an alternative to surfing way back when. When there weren't any waves, it was fun to go cruise around and carve down hills. Years later the whole discipline of Downhill Skateboarding became mainstream and we happened to be on the cusp of the whole thing. Going fast on our boards was just us trying to push the boundaries of what we originally had never thought possible. At the time, I was going to school for photography, so documenting the whole scenario as it played out felt like the next step to connecting my pursuits with my passion.
2. FFF: What do you like best about producing films?
ARIAN: I genuinely enjoy the process, the mission. The most exciting part of production was always the story and the creative journey behind making it happen. Whether it was us renting a van and driving out to the middle of the woods to skate some road we found via satellite mapping, or spending 12 hours waiting for a connecting flight in a Turkish airport in order to get to an event, every single time the adventure became the take away. So for me, the best kind of films are the films that tell the story. Taking the time to exhibit the story telling angle in the best way possible, and that is what I like best about producing films.
3. FFF: Where do you find inspiration?
ARIAN: A lot of the origins of my creative inspiration come from the tricks of the trade my late mother taught me about the process of self expression. My mother was herself, a creative [...]
7 Questions with Producer: NEAL FISCHER
FFF: How did you get into this industry?
FISCHER: Since I was 10 years old, I've had two dreams, first was to live in Japan and the other was to be a story teller of some sort, be it creating comic books and graphic novels, video games, television, feature films, etc. So, after graduating from the University of Iowa, I moved to Japan, where I taught English for the Ministry of Education via a program called JET. While living and working in Japan, I was able to make my first dream come true, for about four years I studied martial arts directly under some of the very best teachers in the world, visited nearly every corner of Japan, lived in a buddhist monastery for a month, learned how to play the Japanese flute and taiko drums, climbed Mount Fuji to the very top, ate Japanese food every day, made some of the best friends I've ever had, and was actually living my dream. It also inspired me to make my other dream come true... so while still living in Japan, I studied about filmmaking, screenwriting and producing from books I had my mother send me, and taught myself how to produce and write. I had taken writing classes through the Iowa Writers Workshop program, but screenwriting was a different beast. So I started writing scripts... lots of scripts.
FFF: What do you like best about producing?
FISCHER: In short, I get to tell stories. There are many aspects to producing, and there are many kinds of producers. I actually enjoy all aspects of producing, from discovering a property, developing it, finding the [...]
7 Questions with: BRENDAN MCCARTHY
FFF: How did you become a film producer?
McCarthy: I was a musician, yes playing the guitar and singing but as the majority of musicians, did not make a lot of money. So I decided to take a real job, in the film industry to earn a living. I started as a trainee and did lots of different assignment, as for example; I worked as an AD etc… and through working on films I found I really liked movies and became very interested in them. Later I worked with the Irish Film Board, which really built on this interest…
FFF: Why genre and specifically horror?
McCarthy: When I teamed up with my producing partner John McDonnell we thought to find our own niche and identity in Ireland and we both love horror and genre film. Also, there were lots of talented Irish producers and most of them were producing drama and had already established them selves so we focused on our passion, genre films.
FFF: What do you like best about producing?
McCarthy: Finding a story that I can “see “play out while I am reading it. There is an instinct and feeling, I have a vision of the project early on and I start thinking about how I can produce it. I also like getting all the people involved, everything from finding the perfect director to the actors, financing the project and even scouting locations. My producing partner has a great background in physical production, which is very complimentary to my overall skill set of development and “packaging”. We try to create a team that we can have fun with while making the film. And it’s sort of magic to be part of creating something that was just an idea in the beginning and then watch [...]
2015 is the start of a new era for Independent Film! (Part 4)
by Benjamin Oberman
April 1, 2015
Today there are an estimated 3,500 film festivals in the United States with more than 5,000 worldwide as noted by Sundance Institute Executive Director, Keri Putnam at the 2015 Art House Convergence. There can’t possibly be room for more? Wrong… New festivals appear daily. And yes, we’re joining those ranks, but with a spin, ours are completely online.
During my tenure as a distributor I’ve seen a major shift in the role of film festivals. Once about discovery of films, they now serve as a powerful marketing tool for the release of major films and, as a circuit, are often the dominant revenue source for many independent films. While first time filmmakers are spending through the nose to submit to festivals in hopes of being accepted, distributors and sales agents are marketing highly credentialed films to be booked from city to city. We use new names, but we’ve returned to the original way a film print was toured around the country playing at special events for the public.
As you complete your film and plan for your distribution, your festival strategy is potentially the most important decision you’ll make. If you’re not extremely well versed in the festival world, it’s worth considering engaging a festival consultant, sales agent, or distributor who understands the strategies, impact on release and revenue potential, and has deep relationships with the various festival directors, programmers, and publicists. You may notice when looking at the line-up year to year that the same distributors, sales agents, Producers, and directors have films in competition. Are they truly the best year [...]
Last month I spoke about the myriad of changes that render the major platforms useless for most of your films. But it’s not doom and gloom. During times of great change come great opportunities. So let’s talk about potential solutions and the many opportunities that are available to you as an indie filmmaker.
INTERNET VOD PLATFORMS:
Since the major VOD platforms have reached critical mass and either don’t want your film, or are not a viable option due to your inability to build critical awareness among their audience, you’d think this is a bad thing. But, in the same way we saw the boutique / mom and pop shops emerge from the big box retail landscape, we’re seeing boutique / specialty platforms appear online daily. Each of these VOD sites has a targeted and loyal fan base. You also have DIY platforms such as Vimeo On Demand, Reelhouse, VHX, and DotStudioPro who enable you to have your own VOD platform and reach your direct audience. You have more options than ever that are perfect for your film. All you have to do is a little research. These companies want your films!
SMART TV, WEB, AND MOBILE APPS:
There are more platforms emerging daily than you can count and it’s difficult to resist the desire to be everywhere. Focus on those platforms that hold the audience you know is right for your film. Consolidate your efforts in those few places to maximize your revenue and begin a trend of success. These apps are connecting you with an audience who will love your film, but may or may not have been willing to watch on a computer!
Although not effective in the way social media [...]
2015 is the start of a new era for Independent Film! (Part 2)
By Benjamin Oberman
February 1, 2015
Thanks to advances in technology, access to equipment, and education, DIY (Do It Yourself) Filmmaking is a reality. However, DIY Distribution is not as clear cut. Assisted distribution and hybrid distribution strategies are a more accurate description. From my experience as a filmmaker and CEO of Film Festival Flix, here are a few points you should know and understand to give your film the best opportunity for success…
INTERNET VOD PLATFORMS:
For the past 10 years the indie community mistakenly believed digital platforms were the Holy Grail, able to save Independent Film. What we failed to realize was they were stocking the shelves with the most plentiful and cost efficient content available while building their audience base to critical mass. The shelves are now more than stacked, these platforms serve and must satisfy tens to hundreds of millions of customers, as public companies are focused on films that move the bottom line for multi-billion dollar corporations, and as of December 2014, the release of THE INTERVIEW proved they can get studio films, “day-and-date”. Indie films, barely able to recoup the cost of the intern hired to onboard the film and metadata, are lost in the digital ocean.
SMART TV, WEB, AND MOBILE APPS:
The proliferation of the Smart TV, Mobile and Web Apps and the TV /Internet connectivity devices (Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku, etc.) has made the internet accessible to everyone, not just kids and tech geeks. As new digital platforms emerge daily, filmmakers and many distributors falsely believe they need to be everywhere. All marketing dollars are your burden to bear! People don’t accidently discover your film. [...]
2015 is the start of a new era for Independent Film! (Part 1)
by Benjamin Oberman
January 4, 2015
Whether you realize it or not, the world has changed. The release of The Interview at the end of 2014 confirmed my theory and signaled the end of the digital infancy. According to the LA Times and FOX Business, the “day-and-date” release of THE INTERVIEW, forever changed the game.
The close of 2014 signaled the end of an era for the Indie.
For those of you who don’t know all the details… Following the major theater chains and digital platforms canceling the Christmas release, deeming the film too risky for exhibition, the Art House Convergence community and the Alamo Drafthouse theater chain, rescued Sony with a petition to screen the film and stand up against Cyberterrorism.
Not only were the participating art house theaters sold out, the initial digital release of the film on Google Play and YouTube was the top performing movie on these platforms for 2014. Before expanding to iTunes, the film set Sony’s all-time record for online sales. Following the successful release, major theater chains were angered and an expanded digital release was announced as the major digital platforms rushed in.
2015 begins a new era for Independent Films.
In the midst of this changing landscape, we see great opportunity for the Independent film community.Film Festival Flix is building a parallel universe, seeking to be your trusted resource to discover and watch quality indie, art-house, foreign language, and niche market films. We are launching a number of initiatives to champion the Indie. In 2015 be sure to check out our theatrical premiere series, award-winning films, online film festivals, short film competition, and join our [...]
THINK INDEPENDENTLY and satisfy your craving for quality films at the Film Festival Flix Farmer’s Market.
2014 has been a year of massive change within the Independent Film Industry on the marketing and distribution front. DIY Filmmaking has been a reality for the past 10 plus years. However, we’ve been lulled into a false belief that distribution via the emerging Internet and Digital platforms for Indies is the Holy Grail. In the early stages of growth, these platforms had to stock the shelves, yet didn’t have the critical mass to garner studio level titles. Thus, they turned to the least expensive and easiest to acquire content… Indie Film.
However, they must now satisfy audiences in the tens to hundreds of millions and support multi-billion dollar bottom lines. Films that appeal to tens of thousands don’t warrant the space on their servers much less support marketing. The platforms are declining new acquisitions, slashing thousands of titles from their servers, ending output deals as they’re up for renewal, and moving more and more to TV content, specifically originally produced, exclusive content. Aggregators are exiting the business in droves no longer to even earn back their onboarding costs. Social Networks, which were thought to be the marketing savior for the Independent Filmmaker have also become Studio domain. The day the social networks went public and had to start generating revenue, Algorithms were re-written, positioning the companies with the deepest pocketbooks as the favored competitors. These networks are now little more than digital billboards.
There’s more content being produced than ever before in history, but proportionately not more quality content. We’ve gone from approximately 12,000 films a year being produced to more than 50,000 [...]
Celebrating the short film art form and the filmmakers that made them, Film Festival Flix hosted a monthly online competition this year.
This week, the 9 monthly finalist films from 2014 competed for one $2,500 cash Grand Prize to put towards their next project.
Presented at the Film Festival Flix theatrical events in Los Angeles (NOHO), Denver, and Dubuque, we were joined by friends and fans who watched the finalists' films, met the filmmakers, and voted to award the Grand Prize to their favorite film. There was also a bit of partying going on, too!
Thanks to all who came out - and good luck filmmakers! Winners will be announced soon!
HOW TO CONSTRUCT YOUR FILM FOR FESTIVALS AND DISTRIBUTION…
by Benjamin Oberman, CEO - Film Festival Flix
Viewer habits have changed. If you want your film to have a chance to break out, here are five elements you need to be aware of... I could not have built the distribution system I have without having spent 14 years producing, but I sure wish I had the knowledge I have now when I was producing; I would have done everything differently. The world has changed, festivals have changed, and viewer attention span has changed. It’s important to understand how the world works to give your film the best opportunity to succeed in the marketplace.
You ask… How can major festivals process 10,000 submissions each year? What do distributors look for in films? Below are five points to consider when developing the structure of your film to help you with the festival process, distribution process, and building trust with your audience.
1. Festival screening committees watch 2-5 minutes of each film to determine if it is worthy of progressing to the second level of selection. (Protocols are being talked about to ensure all films are watched completely, but not all festivals may be able or willing to institute such practices.) To be noticed, you must have something good happen in the first five minutes. You have a very short window of opportunity to engage your audience. This is often why you see selected films start in the middle of the story, go back to the beginning, and proceed to the resolution with some twist or reveal. Take a card from TV and save the title sequence for after the opening teaser. James Bond films open with [...]
I recently had the opportunity to watch the 89 films for the 2013 Banff Mountain Film Festival back to back with my fellow Jury members. The experience was amazing. I was among a team of experts, our butts and eyes were challenged watching 8 hours of films per day with only coffee and chocolate to sustain us, and our discussions were insightful and enlightening. As the week went on, we started to notice trends and clichés. Here is my top ten list of clichés and trends in adventure / climbing films that should be used carefully, used sparingly, or avoided at all costs.
1. Open with the sound of water, bring in the piano music, then white text on a black title card. – Cliché and predictable. Try something new.
2. Use of VO narration to create artificial tension. – There were too many descriptions of all the ways you could die. This is a movie, not a lecture. If we can’t see it in the footage, you need to recut. VO is to give insights into inner thoughts or events happening elsewhere that impact your subject and story. Please avoid end to end narration. Save it for your slide show.
3. I hurt my mom and friends – There are too many scenes where the athlete is describing that they know they hurt and scare their parents, friends, etc. Even if the audience is thinking about that, do not state it. It makes the subject look very dislikable and I’m no longer rooting for you. For a proper use of Mom, look to “Heaven’s Gate”.
4. Don’t state the obvious. - When you’re 1000’s of feet up an overhanging cliff, free-solo, [...]
by Leo Cohen
Another October, another horror remake with last week's Carrie. Of course, the month of Halloween isn't a requisite for releasing a horror remake, but it is a good time to take a look at 5 of the best remakes.
1. John Carpenter's The Thing (1982)
Director: John Carpenter Writer: Bill Lancaster based on a story by John. W. Campbell Jr. Original film release: 1951 Director: Christian Nyby Writer: Charles Lederer
The original film (The Thing from Another World) was produced (and reportedly directed by) Howard Hawks, which made John Carpenter a prime candidate to helm a remake. Carpenter is a lifelong Hawks enthusiast and one of his first films, Assault on Precinct 13, was an homage to Hawks' Rio Bravo. In fact, he used the pseudonym John T. Chance for his editor's credit, which was the name of John Wayne's character in that film. By the early 80s, Carpenter had become known as a horror master having created the Halloween franchise. Fun fact: The film playing on the TV as Michael Myers wreaks havoc is the original Thing film. As for John Carpenter's The Thing, the film was not met with the enthusiasm and love it is now. Carpenter himself points out that by the time of the summer release another alien known simply as E.T. had given the public a new, friendlier view of extra-terrestrials. He would follow suit 2 years later with Starman. The film flopped and many critics like Roger Ebert called the film grotesque and saw it as an effects freak show for the sake of being an effects freak show. However, this ignores all the suspense created by Carpenter's version of the Thing remaining closer to the [...]
by Leo Cohen
As crowds flock to this year's The Conjuring and Insidious: Chapter 2, more than a little credit needs to be given to the original version of The Haunting. The 1963 film was directed by the great Robert Wise and is a master class in creating a scary, ghost story using atmosphere, camerawork, soundtrack and score while using very little in the way of a physical manifestation of an actual ghost. In fact, the film uses none. In an age when ghosts must appear and explain themselves and horror is measured in gore, one of the best parts of The Conjuring is when Joey King's character says there is something behind the door staring at the family and the audience (just like the family) never sees it. For these recent spookfests, James Wan (director of both films) has reached back to lessons taught by Robert Wise in The Haunting. These were lessons he taught by producer Val Lewton, who never had a budget bigger than what was necessary and knew no budget could make anything more terrifying than what the audiences' imaginations could.
Robert Wise is one of the greatest directors of all time. He has made musicals (West Side Story, The Sound of Music), science fiction (The Day the Earth Stood Still), noir (The House on Telegraph Hill) and war (The Desert Rats, The Sand Pebbles). Many are noted for being in the upper class of their respected genres, some even considered to be classics. Within the horror genre, notably the haunted house/ghost story subgenre, The Haunting is considered by one of those classics.
The film deals with Hill House, a mansion that the from the opening narration seems to be cursed, and now Dr. Markway believes [...]
While treasure hunts have been popular for many years in books, pulp fiction, and now video games, they haven't had much of a presence in films. However, there are a few gems hidden out there and all you need is a map to help you find them.
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
George Lucas' brainchild is the ultimate love letter to the movie serial. Brought to the screen by Steven Spielberg, who had wanted to make a Bond picture until pal Lucas said he had something better (Indiana Smith), Raiders is a rip roaring adventure following Professor-by-day-treasure-hunter-by-night Indiana Jones (Spielberg suggested a name change). The story involves Indy being hired by the government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. First Indy must get the headpiece to the Staff of Ra from his ex, Marion "I've got the awesome last name" Ravenwood, which in theory reveals the location of the Well of Souls, where the Ark is buried. Complete with ancient artifacts (the Staff of Ra) used to find even older artifacts (the Ark) and old style maps to show our hero's progress, Raiders is a masterly plotted treasure hunt.
2. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966)
While this may not be the first film to come to mind when thinking of treasure hunt movies the entire plot revolves around three men (Blondie, Angel Eyes, and Tuco) all in search of buried gold, specifically Confederate gold. Leone turning a western into a treasure hunting movie is not so strange when you lay out the history of the Dollars/Man with No Name Trilogy. For starters you have Italians going to Spain to make American Westerns. Also the first [...]
by Susanna Williams
February 24th will be the 85th Academy Awards. Here are a few interesting facts I've learned about the Oscars over the past years:
Ben-Hur (1959), Titanic (1997), and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003) have the record for winning the most awards (11).
The Turning Point (1977) and The Color Purple (1985) both scored 11 nominations and didn't win a single one.
Titanic (1997) and All About Eve (1950) have the most nominations (14) for a single film.
2010 was the first year a woman won an academy award for best director. Kathryn Bigelow won for The Hurt Locker (2008) which was also the lowest grossing movie to ever win best picture.
Metal was hard to come by during WWII so Oscars were made out of plaster.
The first animated film to be nominated for best picture was Beauty and the Beast in 1991. It lost to The Silence of the Lambs which is the first movie considered a horror film to win best picture. It's also the third film to win awards in all five major categories (Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay).
Tatum O'Neal was the youngest to win an Oscar at 10 years old for Paper Moon (1974).
The record for the shortest acceptance speech goes to William Holden and Alfred Hitchcock who simply said, "Thank you."
Gone With the Wind (1939) was the first movie shot in color to win best picture. At 3 hours and 56 minutes it is also the longest film to win.
Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando are the only actors to have played the same character and won (Vito Corleone, The Godfather 1972 and The Godfather Part II 1974).
The red carpet is about 500 ft long.
Midnight Cowboy (1969) is [...]
by Susanna Williams
"I think all film sets are cursed, from the haunted coffee guy on down. You have a lot of free time on sets sometimes, and people have imaginations. I think it's hard to find a set that doesn't have something like that, but with horror movies it gets slightly easier to say it."- Tim Burton
Yes it's Valentine's Day and I should probably be posting something a little more mushy and romantic in honor of St. Valentine. Then again he was beheaded and I do have a love for scary movies so maybe this is a little more fitting than I first thought. Besides, I know I'm not the only one out there who isn't into all this "love stuff." So here we go, Happy Valentine's Day and enjoy your posting of crazy supernatural occurrences on film sets. (It's just too long to wait for Halloween).
Poor Jennifer Carpenter. If it's not bad enough she has to be continuously tormented on Dexter, she also had to be the crazy possessed person in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She claimed that while she was making this film, she would wake up a few times in the middle of the night to her stereo mysteriously playing Pearl Jam's song "Alive." While filming The Amityville Horror remake, Ryan Reynolds found himself waking up around 3:15 am just like his character would in the movie.
Most people have heard of the Poltergeist curse. Heather O'Rourke, the little blonde "They're here!" actress died before the third film was released at the young age of 12 due to cardiac arrest. Dominique Dunne, who played the older sister, was murdered by her boyfriend at 22. Several other cast [...]
by Supriya Limaye
Every so often, a film transcends its genre, and becomes something more. In this case, one of the most disturbing films I’ve ever seen. A fast food restaurant manager, Sandra (Ann Dowd), gets a call from the police who tell her that one of the employees, Becky (Dreama Walker) has stolen money from a customer. Officer Daniels asks Sandra to perform a strip search of Becky, explaining that cooperation in mandatory. He reveals that he has evidence in the form of surveillance and testimony from the victim, and is mid-investigation at Becky’s house, as she is suspected of selling her brother’s marijuana.
But Officer Daniels is not a police officer at all.
He’s a man calling from the suburbs playing a very sick joke, which escalates as a series of men are made to “guard” and then “inspect” Becky, who is trapped naked in the back of the restaurant. The inevitable sexual assault is difficult to believe and gut wrenching to observe. Audiences in many screenings were reported to have walked out of the theater, and yet the film is based closely on a true story.
This is why Compliance transcends the thriller genre: it throws into sharp relief an aspect of human behavior we would rather forget, because it casts many villains, modern and historical, in a morally ambiguous light. Sandra is easy to dismiss or belittle, but the fact is most people, not just fast food workers in Ohio, feel compelled to obey authority figures even when asked to inflict physical harm on others. We learned this formally through the oft-referenced Milgram shock experiments, which were implemented to investigate what it was about Germans that made them willing [...]
Every time I turn around there is a new controversy about the odious MPAA rating system. First, they censored swear words in a therapeutic context (the therapy is that Colin Firth is swearing adorably) in The King’s Speech. Then they gave the powerful anti-bullying documentary aimed at middle and high schoolers, The Bully Project, an “R” rating.
Even the lower ratings confound me—what does rated PG for thematic elements even mean?
Which brings me to my point. In the past year, a lot of independent films have made their way across my desk, the bulk of which informed my new, more accurate rating system:
This film is painfully realistic, and therefore laced with awkward tension. Expect some nervous tittering and inappropriate laughter.
Regardless of setting, this film has a nostalgic air that dreams of a simpler, happier world; expect resolution. Avoid if surges of indie-pop, montages, and tilt-shifting are not your jam.
This film has an agenda, be it justified or no, and uses every rhetorical trick since Bill O’Reilly re-invented the logica fallacy to convince you of its stance.
This film stabs at comedy through on-purpose, cheesy, over-the-top violence or horror. Expect puns, jump scares, and above all, outrageous acting.
MH: Mostly Harmless
This film is so staunchly inoffensive that not even the most cantankerous audience member will find something against which to rail.
*Totally not official in any way at all, obviously
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