The Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel is again transforming into the American Film Market. To prepare for the onslaught of foreign filmmakers selling, and distributors buying, the hotel held a food sampling for some of us locals. The program is called Flavor, and it’s a chain wide program where each hotel has special offerings unique to that location.
The Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel is located overlooking the ocean and the Santa Monica Pier, and on a sunlit evening the back pool deck was overtaken with a crowd of 80 or so people to sample salsa, fresh juices and custom ice cream. I started the evening with some chips and carnitas tacos while tasting the El Machete Chilli Sauce. Founded by Oscar Ochoa, he was a teacher who found his passion for the food industry. He and his brother in law Jason Jones were promoting three of the sauces, a super hot Insurgent, the Mexican Molotov and the Verde Rebelde. I liked them all, but found the Molotov to be my favorite for the best balance of heat and flavor.
Next up was the JUICE brand of cold pressed juices. The traditionalist in me liked the normal fruity concoctions, but the big winner for most people was the Charcoal – I’ll let you have mine any day- not a fan.
Rounding out the evening was Black Market Gelato and Sorbet, founded by Spin Mlynarik he crafted a Carmelized Banana flavor for Chef Zach Dallessandro that is off the chain! This was Bananas Foster in a cold ice cream form. You can try this dessert at the Beach Barn and on Ocean and Vine menu – it’s worth making a special trip just for the ice cream.
I’d suggest however, that you wait until after the American Film Market is over, since the hotel is going to be a hotbed of deal making and there’ll be precious little relaxing going on. The American Film Market (AFM) is the premier place if you have a film you want to sell internationally. There will be hundreds of buyers from countries all over the globe who are armed with money and a need to fill their calendars with movies for theaters and television channels.
Being at AFM is a fascinating experience in marketing and chutzpah. People have to feel confident to put themselves out there to make a movie, and even more so to promote and sell it.
The marketplace for films is changing though, as much as the global market continues to expand, so too the domestic distribution channels. Thanks to services like Hulu, Amazon, VuDu and iTunes a filmmaker can make a movie and get it out to a niche market and bypass the normal distributor model.
I spoke with my friend Jason Brubaker, who I will describe as a chief evangelist for the independent filmmaker. His FilmMakingStuff.com podcast is how I first met him. He’s an accomplished filmmaker himself, which means he’s had some wins and some losses, so he knows whereof he speaks.
While doing research for my documentary What About The Men? I started listening to his podcast. He encourages filmmakers to start filming, but with a plan for their end game. He understands the value of a niche marketing plan and he pulls the curtains back on the entire industry. His podcast shares how an independent filmmaker can make, market and distribute their movies.
Brubaker also works for Distribber.com which is a film aggregator that for a very reasonable set fee, allows a filmmaker to put their movie in front of the audience through Netflix, iTunes, VuDu and many other services. “We appeal to the entrepreneurial filmmaker who wants to control their destiny. By helping filmmakers understand that there is a right and wrong order to distribution, we help them maximize their profits and turn their movie from a frustrating, limited payback experience, to a business model that allows them to make their next film by getting to profit faster.”
Before there was the internet, filmmakers were limited on their upside potential in selling their movies. There was a blockage in the form of distribution, if your movie didn’t get picked up, it didn’t get shared with the world. “The old Business to Business model of movie sales has changed. We now have a Business to Consumer model that allows us to go straight to market with direct sales. A filmmaker that follows the path of 1) transactional sales – Downloads and DVDs then 2) subscription based distribution – Netflix, Hulu etc and finally 3) Ad supported – television network etc, will be able to profit from all levels of distribution today in ways that historically they couldn’t.” Brubaker said.
Distribber has been a very successful tool for movies like Ranger 15 and Jake the Snake, because they know their audiences. Brubaker told me that “Filmmakers today who are in touch with their viewers are able to sell a premium product that is targeted directly at their consumer’s needs and wants. They get premium prices as a result, and we help make that possible by packaging their products for iTunes, Hulu and VuDu etc.”
Like modern marketers, Distribber is building its community so that they know what the filmmaker of today and tomorrow will want. “We hold meetups and Happy Hours for the filmmaking community to share with us, and each other, what is working and how to make it better” said Brubaker.
Clearly Distribber and Brubaker are doing something right. After all I found him through his Filmmakingstuff.com podcast, which is essentially an educational tool he puts out that helps people like me focus on the important parts of filmmaking, and with his audience of over 30,000 followers he clearly is resonating with people’s needs.
The direct to consumer model is certainly the way of the future. Whether it is a movie, a book or a podcast, being able to create content that fits the wants and thirsts of an audience, and be able to find and serve them, means that every creative and professional person who wants to share a message with the world can, and make money from it. I know this from my own experience with the Men’s Family Law podcast. My listeners find loads of free information about family law, child custody and divorce and then call me saying “I have to hire you.”
I’m reminded of the famous words of Zig Ziglar, “You can have everything you want, if you help enough other people get what they want.” Truer today than ever thanks to people like Jason Brubaker, and companies like iTunes and Distribber.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310/664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra