About Vasi Hasan

Marketing content in the digital age.

300: Rise of an Empire

300: Rise of an Empire.

Greek general Themistokles leads the charge against invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes and Artemisia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy.

 

300: Rise of an Empire

300: Rise of an Empire

After watching 300: Rise of an Empire there are a number of things I could tell you about the film. For example, It’s based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel ‘Xerxes’, a sequel to the hugely popular ‘300’, which in turn is based on the story by the Greek historian Herodotus.

I could tell you that Frank Miller left his job at DC comics because he felt that his work was censored too much, and as a lover of history, he felt that he wasn’t doing justice to the stories. Hence the awe-inspiring, yet gruesome, action sequences in the 300 series.

I could also say that the back-stories of Artemisia (Eva Green) and Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) are so ridiculously inaccurate that it makes no sense to anybody who’s studied a bit of history, or that there was little or no character development for the lead, Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) and the Greeks so we feel absolutely nothing for them when their city burns down to ashes.

But lets be honest, nobody’s going to go see this movie as an insight into what happened thousands of years ago – you’re going to go see this if you like a lot of semi-naked people beat the crap out of each other in carefully choreographed, slow-motion fight scenes. So the good news is that this is bigger, there’s more blood, more anger, and dare I say, more nipples?

Movies_300__Rise_of_an_Empire_Xerxes_054817_The story is more or less the same as last time: Persians are coming to take over Greece. This is a parallel story to the previous 300 – the Greek navy takes on the Persian navy in the bay as the Spartans hold off the huge Persian army at the hot gates. The Greek men are not as perfectly ripped as the Spartans, and the fighting does not seem as cool and romanticised as it did in 300. The Greek army, minus General Themistokles, is clumsy and crude with their weapons, unlike the Spartans who were gave viewers goose bumps when they fought.

300-Rise-of-an-Empire-Comic-Con-Poster-Artemisia

The star of this film is Eva Green, playing the cruel, throat-slitting general to the God-King Xerxes as she goes around slitting throats and scaring the testosterone out of her commanders in one beautiful shot after another.

This is a movie made to watch on a big screen, and luckily it is showing on one of the best screens in Birmingham, the giant screen cinema. The 3D is great, the sound is great, and the screen is really, really big. I say ignore the accuracy and depth of the story, grab a drink, and sit back and enjoy hot people swinging swords and bringing a comic book to life.

 

By Vasi Hasan.

Making millions from your film on the internet, AKA Digital Distribution or DIY Distribution.

So you’ve made a film? Now you want to make money from it?

What’s that? You don’t have A-list Hollywood stars in the cast? Sir Elton John hasn’t done an original soundtrack for it? Well, I hate to break it to you; it’s going to be hard to get your film in the cinemas. I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m just saying it’s hard. Very hard.

Did I hear somebody say DVD? Yes, that clunky old gadget that’s getting buried under all the other eternally connected-to-the-cloud gizmos under your TV. I would never say that only your grandma watches DVDs, I would only say you’re better off selling it online before you start thinking about securing a DVD deal.
Hold on, don’t rush off to upload it just yet – here’s a few things you need to know about digital distribution, or Video On Demand (VOD).

There’re different types of VODs, common amongst them are:

  • Transactional Video On Demand (TVOD):
Also known as pay-per-stream or download to rent/own.
  • Ad-supported Video On Demand (AVOD):
That’s where ads are placed before or during your film.
  • Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD):
Viewers subscribe to the service and pay monthly or yearly for the provider’s collection of films.

Then there are Aggregators; companies that negotiate on your behalf with the big boys like iTunes and Netflix. They’ll also arrange for you film to be encoded according to your chosen platform’s specifications.

However, there is a catch. There’s always a catch; basically different ways companies will take money from you. Yes, get used to it. But if you know what you’re doing you can choose the right platform for your film and not get ripped off. Let’s see what the different platforms have to offer.

iTunes icon

 

 

 

 

Viewers can either rent your film from iTunes, or purchase it.
iTunes will take 30% of whatever you make, after you pay an encoding fee. The encoding fee is paid to the Aggregator, the middle-man who charges for dealing with Apple on your behalf.
No, Apple does not want to deal with you directly, you have to go through an Aggregator.
You should go for iTunes because they have close to 600 million active users all over the world, that’s a huge user-base.
You shouldn’t go for iTunes because the encoding fee will probably put you in debt (It can be up to several thousand pounds), or if you don’t want to give them 30p out of every pound you make.
Use it if you have A-list Hollywood stars in the cast. Or if Sir Elton John did the soundtrack – otherwise it never gets featured on their main page and just gets lost under millions of other things and is hard for viewers to find unless they specifically search for it.

Netflix logo

 

 

 

 

Like LOVEfilm, NETFLIX is a subscription based service. They’ll charge you an upfront fee for rights to your film and own it for a number of years. The amount and time period vary on a film by film basis.
You should go for NETFLIX because of the prestige involved, the huge reach, and the fact that it plays on all devices.
You shouldn’t go for it because they could play it a billion times and still not pay you anything other than what you got to sell them your film. There’s an Aggregator involved in this too, so you have to pay them as well for getting your film encoded.
Use it if your film has done well in the festival circuit so you can take advantage of the heat & buzz.

Amazon Instand Video Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Subscription based service by Amazon. Most people don’t know that Amazon does this too, get used to it; Amazon does everything!

Amazon will take 50% of your revenue.
You should go for Amazon because there’s no set-up or encoding costs. You also get links on the IMDB website.
You shouldn’t go for it because you have NO control over what they charge for your content, it’s not available globally, and because 50% seems just a bit too much.
Use it only if you have no money, at least this way there’s no loss, and you can only gain, no matter how little.

Vimeo On Demand logo

 

 

 

 

 

Viewers either rent or purchase your film.
Vimeo will take 10% of your revenue.
You should go for it because there’s no middle-man involved, you get to keep 90% of the money, you can set your own price and geo-block it according to your needs, and because its device friendly and has a global presence.
You shouldn’t go for it because there’s a $200 annual Vimeo Pro fee that you need to pay to upload your content for this service, and that’s for 50GB, anything more and it’s an extra $200.
Use it because it’s quite flexible, but you have to really push it hard yourself with your marketing campaign.

YouTube icon

 

 

 

 

You can do Ad-supported, rental or purchase, or a subscription service with YouTube.
YouTube will take roughly 45% of your revenue – it varies user to user according to their Partner Program that you have to join.
You should go for it because there’s no set-up fee, and because YouTube is huge. You can also set your own prices for subscriptions and rental.
You shouldn’t go for it if 45% seems too high, or if you think you can’t get the thousands of hits/views you need to qualify for the Partnership Program. Also keep in mind that YouTube users aren’t used to paying for anything – you might have a hard time there.
Use it if you have quick turn-over with your content, like a series. It takes time to build up an audience on YouTube.

indieflix icon

 

 

 

INDIEFLIX is a subscription based service.

You are paid by the amount of minutes subscribers watch of your content.
You should go for it because there’s no middle-man, and because you’ll get money per minute for your film. You also get a small amount for each new subscriber you introduce to Indieflix. You have control over where you want to play it (geo-blocking), its device friendly, and it’s available globally.
You shouldn’t go for it if your film didn’t go to a festival – they probably won’t even take it unless it has. The subscriber base isn’t too big so there’s less exposure.
Use it with a mega social media campaign, or something that might go viral. You have to get minutes here, think repeat viewings.

This is it for part 1 of my DIY digital distribution piece, in part 2 we’ll take a look at the rapidly changing world of Travelling VOD Players and what they can do for you.

Vasi Hasan

November 22, 2013

Making Your Film Successful: Distribution & Exhibition

So you’ve made your film, and unlike most of the stuff on the internet, it’s not 11 minutes of beautiful HD footage of your cat sleeping on the sofa which film distributors don’t really want. How do you go about finding an audience for your film and raising your profile?

Will Massa, Tom Vaughan, and Philip Ilson give the lowdown at the Virgin Media Shorts Sessions.

Ideally you should know before you go into production if your film is going to go online or if it’s doing the festival route. As discussed our earlier blog post, Putting Your Short Online, let content decide which way your film is going.

If you’re aiming for festivals, there are some things you need to do before you start pushing it. It’s very important to have an online presence during production – good to drum up some hype, interest, or excitement about your project while it’s happening. Remember to take lots of good stills, behind-the-scene shots as well as production stills for promotional material like posters and press packs. Start thinking about which festivals you want to submit your film. There are way too many festivals around nowadays, and since some of them are quite expensive, not all of them will be useful for you. Do your research and see which ones cater to your genre and style and see what kind of films they’ve screened in the past. What is important for your film? Do you want exposure or are you just after an award so you can write ‘award winning…’ on the back of the DVD?

Knowing your festival can be just as important as knowing your audience, says Philip Ilson. The London Short Film Festival gets up to 3000 submissions and selects 30, only 6 or 7 of which are from the U.K. Sending to multiple film festivals without doing your homework will put a huge dent in your budget since most festivals in the U.K and U.S charge for submissions. Festivals in Europe tend to be a bit forgiving, and you will find lots that are free. Be involved in the distribution of your film from the start and figure out who you are targeting. Here’s quite an exhaustive list of festivals if you have lots of time.

If you don’t have time to mine the internet for suitable festivals, deciding which festivals to submit to can be a daunting task. The British Council Short Film Scheme has 40 BAFTA recognized festivals on their list, though all of these probably won’t be suitable for your particular project, but it’s a good place to start. Don’t just go for the big names like Cannes and Berlin Film Festival, some of the smaller festivals also get a lot of film agents and distributors. The general consensus at the session was that it’s rare to see a short film at more than four or five festivals, which makes sense because you typically get around €500 / minute, less in the U.K, if you sell your film, and travel, accommodation, and submission fees can really add up. The British Council has recently re-launched its international support for UK filmmakers; if your short is accepted at any of the world’s key film festivals then you might be eligible for travel and accommodation support.

Don’t despair if your film doesn’t get selected for screening at the festival though, it’s never the end of the road for a short. Other than the popular competitions like Virgin Media Shorts and Reed, there are other options like Shorts TV and Channel 4’s Random Acts. Also try Dazzle, Atom, and Bombay Sapphire’s Imagination Series.

As long as you have an internet connection, you can always find channels for your content – good luck.

By Vasi Hasan

Selling the Idea: The Perfect Pitch

You’ve got the best idea for a film, ever, and you want to make it. Chances are you’ll have to pitch that idea to multiple people before it ever gets made.

What is the perfect pitch?

Here’s the wisdom from Will Massa, Damian Spandley, and David Pope at the Virgin Media Short Sessions.

We’ll give you the bad news first: it’s tough getting it right. You have to be charismatic, bold, and confident – everything your mother wanted you to be, but sadly aren’t.

The good news is that even if you’re not all of the above, you can still practice your pitch.

Don’t think of it as ‘pitching’, suggests David. Think of it as having a conversation with somebody, a conversation that ends up with you in a business relationship with that person. If you hate putting your ideas up for other people to judge, you’re not the only one – however, do keep in mind that everybody will be judging your film at some point, so it’s best to get used to the idea early on.

Pitching is a dark art, talking about yourself, about your work; some have it, others don’t. However, before you go bumbling about trying to convince a distributor to take your film – here’s what you can do.

  1. Understand your audience.
    That means the person you’re pitching to, not just your film’s audience. Do your research; find out what kind of films they buy, which genres they specialize in.
  2. Know all your references, and build a toolkit.
    It’s good to use examples that people are familiar with. If you’re selling a gangster film its ok to say “like Good Fellas” or “Godfather”- however, keep in mind that you better be able to match up to the references you provide, your little cousin Vinny is probably no Al Pacino, even if you are Francis Ford Coppola.
  3. Establish a hook.
    Which emotion are you aiming for? Decide on that, and make it sound good. If you’re pitching a comedy, make sure somebody laughs – confidence is key here.
  4. Divide and rule.
    If you’re pitching as a team, break up the pitch into different parts for the Producer and the Director. Producer answers the all-important “Who is the audience for the film” questions and the Director talks about the story, mood, and treatment. Remember, you will be judged on how you function as a team, how you will deliver. When you’re pitching, they’ll be thinking if the Director is clear enough about what he/she wants to do? If the producer knows his numbers and audience? A good way is to give examples and say we’re targeting the kind of people who’d go watch film X.
  5. Get your cast list together.
    Unless you have Angelina Jolie as the lead, it’s fine to not use names and say “Young, attractive, 35-year-old woman”. Get your cast list together with pictures and letter of intent/release forms.
  6. Film references.
    That includes references for mood, the visuals, and sound.
  7. Film synopsis.
    A short, beautifully written summary of what’s happening. Please spell check it, and get somebody other than a computer to read it before you send it in.
  8. Complete script.
  9. Online presence.
    Last but not least, make sure you have an online presence so people can look you up and check your work if they need to. Your showreel should be ready and transferable to multiple platforms.

Once you have all of the above, practice talking about it. Once you’re done, practice some more and then some more. Keep going until it’s as natural as scratching your nose.  Keep it short, and as long as it has to be – though shorter is better, you’ll know it’s long if they start checking their Facebook feeds, but then it’ll be too late.

Remember that all you are trying to do is tell the man with the money what your film is, where it will end up, who it’s for – and most importantly, how it’s going to make more money for him.

By Vasi Hasan

Putting Your Short Online

Let’s just cut to the chase; you finally did what you’ve been thinking of doing for the last 5 years: sold your car/furniture/soul-to-the-devil and raised enough money to make a short film. Now it’s time to show it to the public and take over the world, right? The only problem is that so far you’ve managed to give out one DVD out… to your mom.

We were at the Virgin Media Shorts Sessions listening to what MJ Delaney, Simon Young, Michael Stevens, Nick Scott, and Thomas Thirlwall had to say about putting your short online.

Film making is an expensive hobby; you have to be either extremely persistent or extremely lucky – being a hard-working, talented story-teller is mandatory. Traditionally films go the festival route, going from festival to festival in the hope of getting picked up by a distributor; there really wasn’t any other way films could be seen before the internet. Although this is changing now, but most festivals still don’t take films that have been put online because they want fresh material, it is after all, a showroom where distributors come to buy tried and tested films – they’d be vary of buying something that millions of people already had access to online. So you put your film in film festivals, and if it does well or wins an award, it’s a sure fire way to getting more work. If however, you’re not going to send it to festivals and you want to put it online, the big, bad, extremely judgemental world wide audience will decide the fate of your film.

Putting your work online means that you present it to the best rating system ever devised; if people like it, they’ll recommend it to others and you’ll get more people to watch it. If they don’t like it, it’ll be thrown out before you can say “click me”, dead and buried under billions of other casualties that the internet chews out every day.

Unfortunately, there’s no science to making it work, no formula for making your short viral. There are some rules that some follow, like keeping it short. MJ Delaney, famous for her Newport State of Mind video seems to think that anything longer than 3 minutes tends to not get shared; watching something longer on the internet is just not something people are used to. Or the Golden 15″ rule: If it’s not funny in the first 15 seconds, you’ve lost your viewer. Funny or Die, say proponents of humour on the internet – people generally seem to agree that internet is made for comedy, (It’s actually made for cat pictures) so content on the internet is skewed towards short, funny stuff, something that Michael Steven’s extremely popular channel Vsauce seems to endorse. Michael has been making at least one video every week for the last 5 years. There are no secrets to success on the internet, he says. More is good. If the first one isn’t popular, the next one might be.

So once you’ve decided to put it up on Vimeo or YouTube, you have to push it. Yes, push it more, Egor. You post it on Facebook, and depending on your content, you post it on sites like Reddit, 9GAG, common interest forums, send it to blogs, writers who have large followings – you get the picture? It’s like The Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park; you have to shout it out.

The Webby Awards is something you should be aiming for, the Oscars of the internet. Or use your internet popularity to raise money for your next venture, check out Kickstarter for that. People have done it before, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be the next success story.

By Vasi Hasan