We've Got Hollywood Covered

Films Should Be Shown in Front of Audiences

“Live Event/Theatrical” is being reborn in the U.S with more films using a robust outside-of-the-box booking strategy

This week’s tips concern the reborn “theatrical” movement in the U.S. and around the world for independent film. I’m a firm believer that film should be screened in front of live audiences — which is one form of our millennia old tradition of telling stories in a communal environment – usually in the dark (in the old days in front of a fire). 

Tip 1:  Embrace Live Event/Theatrical

What I call “Live Event/Theatrical” is being reborn in the U.S with more films using a robust outside-of-the-box booking strategy utilizing a wide variety of venues to screen their works. I call these Live Event/Theatrical because: 1. They emphasize the live audience and the benefits that come from screening your film in front of an audience. 2. The Title emphasizes the event nature of the screenings –and I feel it is important for independents to embrace events (not just throw out screenings from Fri-Thurs) 3. We want to retain the ability to say that we’ve had a theatrical release – hence Theatrical – without having to succumb to the expenses or restrictions of what is known in the industry as “theatrical”. The tips for the next week or so will concern live event theatrical releases. But for more information come check out my workshops – coming up in

Tip 2: Use Organizational Partners

If you have laid the groundwork with organizational partners, you can have them organize many of your screenings what Lisa Smithline calls DIFY – or Do It For You. This is one of the many added benefits of starting your distribution and marketing groundwork from the beginning. Even if they don’t do the actual screening organization, they can provide audience, support structure, event production, event talent. If you don’t have an organization – but have an engaged audience – you can work with your audience in this way too.  

Again this is one of the many topics that is covered in depth in the workshops. In NY we are fortunate to have social engagement strategist Sheri Candler and community outreach specialist Caitlin Boyle giving presentations! In Vancouver we have Colleen Nystadt from Movieset!

Tip 3: When Booking Your Film: Do Your Research

Of course you have done your organizational research, but assuming you are still going to book some conventional theaters the first step is: Research. Most information you need to book your film is readily available online.  There are already lists of theaters that book independent films available online. My distribution and marketing tools site: ultimatefilmguides.com has a list of these lists! Most theaters have Web sites, and in nearly all of them, the office number can be found if you look hard enough. To compile your list of theaters to contact, check out where other similar independent films have played.

Tip 4: When Booking Your Film: Make the Call

When calling the theater, ask for the person in charge of programming. These bookers are generally very nice people who love film. Why else would they be involved with small theaters that make no money? And remember, it is important to call first before sending an e-mail. An e-mail cannot express your passion, nor will an e-mail exchange allow you to address the bookers‘ concerns about your film in a direct and instantaneous fashion. I always followed up my phone calls with an e-mail and not the other way around.

My workshops are coming to NYC on June 5 & 6 organized through IFP – and Vancouver on June 12 & 13.   One of the perks of attending is a digital pack of articles and documents including a delivery schedule and blank boilerplate budget in Excel. I hope to see you there! Check out the book and workshops here


Named one of “10 Digital Directors to Watch” by Daily Variety, Jon Reiss is a critically acclaimed filmmaker who has produced and directed three feature films -- most recently "Bomb It" (Tribeca 2007), about graffiti, street art and the battle over visual public space throughout the world. He just published "Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution in the Digital Era," the first step-by-step guide for filmmakers to distribute and market their films. He also consults and speaks about distribution and marketing for film at festivals and forums throughout the world. He has just launched a distribution and marketing tools website for independent filmmakers.