The Future Of Documentary - Brian Newman
Brian was most recently CEO of the Tribeca Film Institute (TFI), where he conceived and launched the Reframe project, a unique initiative to digitize and make available thousands of films for DVD, streaming and video on demand. He speaks regularly on new media, audience development and the future of the industry, and contributes irregularly to a blog on these subjects at Springboardmedia.
DocMovies caught up with Brian for an insightful discussion about DIY and Indie documentary filmmakers
Thank you for taking your time to do this interview. Let's start off by telling us about yourself
I studied film both in undergraduate and graduate, I was always disappointed that I always heard about thousand of films form all over the world that I heard about,but never seen. As a student I always wanted to have films and study it frame by frame. At the time I lived in NY and I used to go to the Anthology, and I was infuriated that I couldn't have them. When I was working on Tribeca, I've noticed that many films that were made years ago were stuck on a shelf and filmmakers don't have the money to transfer them to digital. So we did a program where we digitized a few thousand films and made them available for iTunes and Amazon, and Hulu. The idea is that filmmakers reserve their rights, and the program still goes on today. So I started working a lot with digital distributors, at the same time during my time in Tribeca, when we were giving filmmakers grants to do their films, and every single filmmaker I would talk to would give me 4 stories of their distributors. And it wasn't so much that they were stealing or hiding money, a few did, but after one year that the film fell, they stuck it on their catalog, if the filmmaker could, they would have taken it on a tour or doing other things to promote it.
"In the US and Latin America Cable VOD is becoming a lucrative dream for many filmmakers"
We are curious to know your take on filmmakers who are saying that they want to focus on the art not the business
Artist want to impact the world through their films. There is a big dichotomy around the world of artists saying "I want to focus on the art not the business" The reality is it's a myth. Shakespeare not only had to think about his audience but his audience screamed at him and throw things at him when they thought they didn't see something good. Theatre was much more participatory back than. The famous artists of our time had to worry about the church to get audience for their work. If you have the auteur like Godard, they were very conscious about what audience want. They were pushing boundaries being artistic, and the fact of the matter is that there was period of time where you could focus solely on your art, get a state funding and the distributor done a good job. The reality is that many of them not all, aren't doing their job of finding their audience.
The second thing is, we now disrupted globally, that paradigm shift, and when you look at a TV set you don't expect to talk to it, but with your computer you expect to talk and get a response as a consumer. Film audience are more content driven, and if you are bothering to look for someone's film online you would want to engage with it. It doesn't mean that every audience member want to interact with you or you film, but if someone wants to engage more you should look them up. Another thing you can do is build your audience and than go with a distributor, it doesn't hurt to have a 30,000 fan base on facebook.