The TAKE-BACK Manifesto

by tully
April 9, 2010 3:32 AM
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The TAKE-BACK Manifesto

By signing the following petition, we film lovers of all types—critics, reviewers, screenwriters, directors, producers, production assistants, grandparents, art history snobs, coach potatoes, Multiplex squatters, etc.—believe the following to be true:

— We realize that bringing any film into fruition, however great or small the budget, is an outrageously difficult task. We realize this, and yet we don’t care. The final product is all that matters.

— A production’s back-story only becomes relevant after—not before—one has watched the film on a screen. Once we see your film and like (or dislike) it, that is when we will decide if we want to learn more about how it came to be. Not everyone can be Werner Herzog.

— We know that making thought provoking, ambitious, challenging, adventurous films is complicated by the fact that cinema is such an expensive art form. We know this, and yet we say so what. Everyone is a martyr for their art.

— We don’t want to help pay for your movies. Either: 1) We have our own movies to finance; or 2) We feel like an active enough participant in the process by watching your finished film and being affected by it. That is the extent of the participation we seek.

— We understand that we are living in a constantly evolving technological world and that there are kinks to be worked out. We trust that the sharpest, most appropriate brains will solve these problems. Convening weekly panels about how to use Twitter is not the answer.

— We admire and respect many of those who have given birth to this new panel industry, but we also understand that we now have access to most, if not all, of those participants every day, on a minute-to-minute basis, through their Internet voices. Because of this technological advancement, these panels have begun to feel increasingly unnecessary, a summing up of the latest ideas rather than a newly informative experience.

— We believe in the mystery, the power, and magic of cinema, and we feel strongly that the more one reveals about one's production—at least when it comes to this recent phenomenon of obsessive
reporting and documenting of every step of the filmmaking process—the less powerful the impact will be. Exposing the process is only for Christo.

— From this point forth, we are only interested in the film itself. By marketing your marketing, you are only alienating us. If you are doing anything, you are making us not want to watch your film.

— We call for a ban of the conversations/panels/symposiums/etc. about “How To Market Your Indie Movie In The New Media World!” until at least 2012, when these troubles will naturally work themselves out.

— All of this talking about "finances" and "connecting" and "publicity" is the insidious language of a corporate, numbers-before-content mindset. Truly personal, independent cinema has never been preoccupied with these details, and making us feel guilty for not caring about them is not the answer. You're only driving the most talented souls away.

— Can we get back to talking about movies, please?


Michael Tully (Hammer to Nail)
Vadim Rizov (more here:
Tom Russell (Turtleneck Films)

(If You Wish To Be Included, Add Your Name In The Comments Section Below)

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More: Film in General


  • Philbert Ooper | August 9, 2010 8:10 AMReply

    sign me up, this social media hoopla is annoying the crap out of me.

    if everyone would take a step back and look at this from an outsiders perspective you'd see:

    1.) social media "gurus" like peter broderick, brian newman, and jon reiss don't make a living practicing what they preach. they make a living by giving advice, not by putting that advice into practice.

    2.) one-hit wonders like arin crumley and nina paley have not had repeated success

    3.) 99% of filmmakers will fail at this social media game b/c people are way too apathetic towards indie film and the 1% that succeeds will be b/c of luck more than anything else

    from now on i am fancying myself a social media guru. i don't know how to apply this social media hype in real life, but i sure do know how to talk like i do, which puts me in the same company as mr. newman, mr. reiss, and so forth...


  • Daniel Semel | July 11, 2010 7:07 AMReply

    Hey Michael,

    why don't you just take care of your own shit and don't worry about what everybody else is doing.

  • Michael Budd | June 24, 2010 6:32 AMReply

    Hells yes. Save the process for the DVD bonus features if your movie gets that far.

  • Melony C. | June 23, 2010 11:41 AMReply

    Sincerely so,

  • Reid Gershbein | April 19, 2010 4:23 AMReply

    Lots of twitter discussion on this here too:

  • JBJ | April 18, 2010 2:58 AMReply


    I appreciate the sentiment.

    All this technology just seems to be creating an age of advertising. That's what this last decade will be remembered for..war, technology and advertising. I saw much fewer great films and heard less great music than previous years.

    We need people to learn how to tell great stories again instead of playing with their gadgets and spending all their time promoting themselves.

    If you tell a really really really great story it will find its way to people.

    Note the three "reallys." I've seen good films not get distributed, but I've never seen a truly great mind blowing movie not get some level of distribution. I know some of you will think that's crazy, but it's true. Your film may have been really good, but it wasn't life changing. A LIFE-CHANGING FILM WILL SPREAD LIKE WILDFIRE. Are you willing to get off Facebook and put the time in that it might take to do that? Even if it takes a decade of doubt and poverty?

  • Damian K. Lahey | April 15, 2010 10:00 AMReply

    I was just checking out your blog the other day and I guess you hadn't posted the manifesto yet. In the context of it being written for and by people who live in a world that is one big film festival, with countries, cities being festivals of different size and stature - I don't see a problem with it and most of it comes down to taste. Some people prefer gettng their information in one format as opposed to another. You don't like panels, some people don't like exception to your spiel on stories about the making of movies, is The Last Blunder/Last Summer, for example, which you're posting on your site. I think there are other exceptions out there and I wouldn't rule them out. Be careful.
    But people that have the luxury to contemplate such things, yourself included, should be grateful. Most don't. Aside from the people that live in the reality of your world of non stop independent film festival living - I don't think you would find very much sympathy for either side of the "argument". If I was someone with a casual interest in indepedent film that read that entire bit on there - I would think you guys came off as a tad ungrateful and out of touch. I would then wonder what stories you could possibly have to tell about people that live day to day with more realistic fears, responsibilities, and hardships rather than ping-ponging back and forth about the fate of independent cinema and how to make more money from it. Most people have a hard time borrowing five hundred dollars to pay for their child care, let alone 50000 to make their vanity project. I think independent filmmakers should always be respectful of that fact. But I agree with most of it, so I guess I'll give it my E-SIGNATURE - LOL
    Keep it up, my man!

  • daniel laabs | April 15, 2010 5:14 AMReply

    agreed, and well said.

  • Jaques Dutronc | April 14, 2010 1:59 AMReply

    Woodrow's response is simply beyond the pale.

    Tully, you wrote: "From this point forth, we are only interested in the film itself. By marketing your marketing, you are only alienating us. If you are doing anything, you are making us not want to watch your film."

    I can't think of anyone who has violated this very sound sentiment more than Woodrow himself, with his 'new marketing' strategy for Bass Ackwards. I saw the campaign. Video after video of Thomas Woodrow, at home and on the street, outlining (with the unctuous hucksterism of Stan Lee) his distribution plan. The videos offered no insight into the creative content of the film being marketed. Rather, "We're going viral!!!!" became the actual SUBJECT of the media meant to go viral.

    Surely he felt the jab when he read your piece. I mean you couldnt miss it. So the lack of acknowledgment, or redress, in his response comes off as disingenuous and, yes, alienating.

    To reiterate your own thoughts, the notion that a viewer should be excited by the marketing of a film they know next to nothing about, simply because that marketing plan is exciting to the producer, is both cynical and crass. It prioritizes commerce over art in such an extreme, outlandish way that it almost borders on parody.

  • Matthew Schlissel | April 13, 2010 2:29 AMReply

    Me Too. Thanks for writing this.

    -Matthew Schlissel

  • tully | April 13, 2010 2:20 AMReply

    Once again, I appreciate all of the comments and even agree with those of you who disagree with me. I would like to especially agree with Tom's point about festivals being an important step in the free marketing process for the tiniest films, which we as filmmakers must then use to branch out even further.

    But this quote from Saskia Wilson-Brown perhaps best clarifies my stance on the situation. THIS is what I was trying to say all along:

    "It comes down to this, for me. All these online tools and processes are just that: Tools and processes. If we as a creative community lose the art in favor of the tools, then we are doing it wrong. If, however, we use the tools to service a greater artistic vision, then we are doing it right."

  • Ryan Sartor | April 12, 2010 12:14 PMReply

    I'd like to sign my name as well.

  • Pedram F Dahl | April 12, 2010 9:37 AMReply

    Thanks for writing the manifesto. I'm with you 300%heartedly.

  • Geraldine | April 12, 2010 9:28 AMReply

    Ditto. What they said.

  • The Teeto | April 12, 2010 9:15 AMReply

    Don't you have real problems?

  • Chad Halvorsen | April 12, 2010 9:05 AMReply

    I shall sign...

  • Robert Longstreet | April 12, 2010 8:22 AMReply


  • Louis Kerman | April 12, 2010 7:18 AMReply


  • Sean Cusack | April 12, 2010 7:16 AMReply

    Sincerely so

  • don r. lewis | April 12, 2010 5:12 AMReply

    Amen brothers and sisters!

  • Saskia Wilson-Brown | April 12, 2010 4:36 AMReply

    Lord, please save me from another panel about Twitter and personal brands.... I also agree that we lose some of the mystery of the artistic process in all the 'transparency'.


    This movement is allowing independent voices around the world to be heard and supported. I think that's amazing.

    And, as far as crowdsourced donations: In the absence of any governmental or (for the most part) corporate support for the arts, I love the fact that I can support an independent filmmaker - and thus the arts as a whole.

    It comes down to this, for me. All these online tools and processes are just that: Tools and processes. If we as a creative community lose the art in favor of the tools, then we are doing it wrong. If, however, we use the tools to service a greater artistic vision, then we are doing it right.

    BUT in order to do that, we need these conferences and panels- so not just those of us who are already in the know have access to the information.

    So: I totally get it, but think this reactionary stance is irrational. Moreover, this position doesn't allow for the fact that many many people are still not aware of how the tools we all take for granted can be best utilized to help them thrive and carry on making their art.

  • Marie-Juliette Steinsvold | April 12, 2010 3:59 AMReply

    I read it and thought that finally I know I'm not alone. Love the irony . You're making great points.

  • Thomas Woodrow | April 12, 2010 3:19 AMReply

    Generally speaking, I agree with all this.

    But taking a step back, I think that the panels have been convened so much simply because there is a seismic shift happening (and really and truly not finished yet, barely even begun) in the way that films find their audiences and audiences find their films. All the chatter and discussion and panels and stuff are really just an explosion of thinking/anxiety/interest/notation around that fact.

    My biggest frustration with the panels/chatter is not so much that they're there, as that the future that they're about really ain't here yet. Not quite, anyway. Which actually does explain the vagueness in which they largely end up: we haven't seen the exact nature of where things are going, so we can't name it yet.

    I'm personally excited about the point when there will be a truly disintermediated pathway between filmmakers and audiences, such that a filmmaker can, with as little financial and technological encumbrance as possible, make his or her film available directly to the audience in as high a quality as possible. You can do this now, but quite literally only if your audience is either willing to buy a DVD from you off your website or if your audience is willing to connect their computer via some means to their television — Slingbox is one solution and so is a video-out jack on a laptop.

    But these are not nor are they ever going to be (probably) solutions with enough audience members to finance a film or sustain any but the most modest of filmmakers, because they're not the ready-made points of access audiences will always tend toward (iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, DVR).

    I think the big question right now is: who will be the next Big Gatekeeper? I'm putting money on Apple, because of its unbelievable success with iTunes and music. But this is dependent upon an overwhelming success of the iPad to match that of the iPhone.

    And root for Apple we might, because Netflix itself has already become the biggest gatekeeper of them all for filmmakers in terms of reaching audiences. "You can get it on Netflix" is like saying "it exists," even for the smallest of indie titles. On a (yes) panel in which I recently participated at the (gasp) Conversation, the venerable Richard Lorber said candidly that although he is excited about the future of digital in theory, literally 90% (that's nine-zero) of his business is still in DVD. And I'll add to that "rental," most likely, and therefore: Netflix.

    None of this is to say that uncurated film availability has much value, in and of itself. Just ask YouTube. Festivals and critics will ALWAYS play an enormous role, because third-party, in helping to curate what audiences pay attention to. And so they should! In fact, I honestly think that regional film festivals are the future of independent film, or even the present. In spending time on the festival circuit with TRUE ADOLESCENTS, I came to understand the astonishing role they are playing in audience creation for indie films across this country. They are getting people out to theaters to watch non-Hollywood films. They are generating awareness for the existence of these movies. It’s probably not going to far to say that for the majority of truly independent films, they are the primary (and free) marketing campaign that any given film will have. Now, how producers capitalize on festival-generated awareness to drive ancillaries is a daily-evolving reality and a generally unexploited opportunity.

    But from a producing perspective, all the marketing chatter has me scratching my head a bit, because in the same way that making a film requires money, even if it's a small amount, so does marketing one. Like so many, I've learned the hard way that the days are gone (if they ever were in the first place) when we producers can expect a distributor to pony up cash to get our film out there. So if we want to be responsible to the equity that was marshaled in the first place, we need to raise P&A at the same time we raise equity to make the films. Distributors, conventional or not, are behaving more and more like vendors every day, from the large films to the small.

    It's time that as producers we start acting (and financing our films) like the studios we are becoming.

  • Braden King | April 12, 2010 3:17 AMReply

    Make Cinema, not Movies.

    Signed, with Dylan's asterisk - and the reservation of my right to wander...

  • Indie Film Director | April 11, 2010 12:41 PMReply

    You want to know what killed the theatrical independent film? NETFLIX. Plain and simple. Netflix makes it so easy to rent (and so inexpensive) that we look at cheaper, more indie budgeted films as not being worthy of the price of a theatrical admission. The attitude prevails, "Oh, we can wait for Netflix on that one." Meaning, it's a smaller scaled film, more dialogue driven and with less emphasis on visuals and widescreen splendor than AVATAR or GLADIATOR, etc. So -- if audiences are not supporting indie films on the big screen, the distributors are going to stop making them available on the big screen. It's a no-brainer. Theatrical marketing is just too damn expensive to have a slim audience turn-out and the film hitting DVD within a month or two. We've gone and killed the goose that laid the golden eggs and Netflix and are the distributors who control the rights and windows to these films are to blame.

  • Nicol Wistreich | April 11, 2010 11:33 AMReply

    hmm, crowd sourced finance is really just micro-presales..

    of course we all want to avoid plunder funnel. but most multi-party indie film financing (as opposed to studio 'single party finance') used to have a distribution pre-sale element. These are almost impossible to find now, partly because of digital distribution uncertainty, partly because of the risks, and partly coz there's so many films and the money is spread further

    Micro-presales is just pre-selling a DVD/premiere ticket ahead of production to the people likely to want to see the finished film. It cuts out that messy and difficult stage of finding a distributor (and potentially getting ripped off). It can demonstrate a potential audience big enough to let you bring in gap - or even public - finance. If this didn't exist - and the only way people could make a film was for it to be either micro/no-budget, for them to be rich or for it to be sponsored by Coke, then it would be a much duller film culture. If the conversation bores you, don't read it!

    (that said I must confess, after spending years getting excited about the Cluetrainification of the film world, of cinema 2.0 between 2005-2008, I watched some incredible films back to back at Edinburgh Film Festival and remembered what it was all about. And felt very silly and rather dull for talking so much about techno trends and fashions. It should start and finish with the film - and there's a lot of people trying to make their name with a new technique, system, brand or, indeed, manifesto, but also a lot of people who's chat is moving things forward and strengthening a global community.)

    Anyway, good to see the debate opening up, there is much that sucks right now which your post chimes with - indie film is full of leach industries (perhaps that includes me?). But anyone telling me I shouldn't talk about something sounds like a - aaagh Godwin's law danger, I should shut up now.

  • Christopher J. Boghosian | April 11, 2010 10:07 AMReply

    Bobby - Very well stated! Exceptional example of how DIY can be effective while maintaining artistic integrity.

    Brook - Cassavetes? You've got to be kidding me. Really poor example. I wish he were around to back me up, but I'm very confident in saying he would be all over social sites, panels and blogs promoting his stuff during the making.

    Though I disagree with the tone and hyperbolic nature of this "manifesto," I do appreciate the way in which it keeps current trends "in check" to balance things out.

    Like all things, the answer is often found in the middle!

  • Peter | April 11, 2010 9:50 AMReply

    Isn't this all just incredibly silly? I mean, is there really any living to be made even if the most miraculous events occur for your film?
    Sorry, but, "you" and your film are no longer products in this marketplace. The marketplace has changed. It is on its deathbed if not dead already. Put your heart on the screen and don't quit your day job.

  • KJ Farrington | April 11, 2010 9:04 AMReply

    Can I sign twice?

  • Zak Forsman | April 11, 2010 7:01 AMReply

    You can have my DIY when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.

  • Mynette Louie | April 11, 2010 6:48 AMReply

    How come only 3 women have commented on this? Harrumph.

  • David Redmon | April 11, 2010 6:18 AMReply

    Tully strikes another chord, or nerve.

  • ABHIJIT K. | April 11, 2010 5:38 AMReply

    but....such positioning , not so sure.

  • Eli Manning | April 11, 2010 5:35 AMReply

    Every now and again you come out with something truly smart and needing to be said that makes reading your blogs worth it... This is one of those rare times! Thank you!

  • Saibal Mitra | April 11, 2010 5:20 AMReply

    I am with you. Bravo

  • Lance | April 11, 2010 5:04 AMReply

    Thank you for writing this.

  • Gregory Bayne | April 11, 2010 4:29 AMReply

    "Everyone is a martyr for their art."

    Yeah, sure, metaphorically, and only when you live in a wealthy nation that affords you this sort of self absorption, and other people are paying for it.

    You're attacking the wrong camp here. The problem with American independent cinema, the demise of thoughtful film discussion, and thoughtful films to discuss, is that some brainiacs attempted to turn into an industry, and EVERYONE bought into it. You can barely blame them, because that is what we Americans do. We see an opportunity, seize it, bleed it dry, leave it for dead.

    So if you're sincerely looking for the culprit here, look in the mirror. All of us look in the mirror, everyone is to blame, the companies and festivals that prospered by preying upon the hopes and dreams of naive 'filmmakers' (and still do), the 'filmmakers' that willfully sought to be preyed upon (and still do), the rampant celebrity bullshit, the industry carpetbaggers, and experts, the whole mess of us ridiculously trying to hold up a system that, for all intents and purposes, is completely insane.

    The actual thing the DIY, and panel 'movement', as it were, has accomplished here, (and I don't think it was the original intent) has revealed that the independent film industry is as real as the Wizard of Oz, and basically equates to a form of legalized gambling.

    If you take a moment, and read between the lines, you will see that the intent for most of us is the same. We want to recapture that 'magic' of cinema which has dissipated under the cloud of 'industry', we want to be excited by film again. But, the dividing line appears to be that there are many of us trying to figure out how to do that in a responsible, and yes, economically responsible way. I mean, have you watched the news in the last 2-3 years? People can't fucking eat, and you're worried about the demise of 'independent film' because some people are getting together trying to figure out how to adapt their work, and how they get it in front of people, to better fit in the world we live in. That's part of problem here, this silly preciousness we carry around, and which runs rampant in the 'manifesto'. We think we're more important than we are, our work more profound that it is, and that we're providing society more than we do.

    Seriously, we make movies.

  • James Lantz | April 11, 2010 4:14 AMReply

    Amen!! (Hm ... now what do I do with the blog I just started about our film's production??)

  • John Magary | April 11, 2010 2:28 AMReply

    Oh. Sure. Yeah, okay.

  • tully | April 11, 2010 2:24 AMReply

    So many great comments here.

    Bobby Miller — Your movie ROCKS and I applaud you finding a way to use s----- m---- t---- to your advantage. I hope everyone sees "Tub". It's an impressive accomplishment and a serious head trip.

    Dylan Marchetti — Asterisk taken to heart. Agreed.

    Mark — I thought it was obvious that I was being ironic in posting this as a "manifesto." The only thing more pointless than panels are manifestos (parades are a close third).

    Brook Hinton — A-m-e-n.

    Lucas McNelly — I'm totally cool with that, though I would prefer to have a career like those mentioned in Brook Hinton's comment. The truly unique voices that I most admire will always be floating on the margins. That's just how our world is wired.

    Princeton Holt — I appreciate your defending my credibility, but for the record, I've only made 2 DIY features. If all goes well, this summer will be my third, but expect it to create even less of a stir. I am okay with that.

    Miles Maker — Thanks for your many insights and words.

    Okay, gotta run. Keep commenting people!

  • Bobby Miller | April 11, 2010 2:07 AMReply

    I made a short film called "TUB" ( I was lucky enough to get into Sundance with it.

    I was at least $3,500 away from actually finishing the movie.

    I did not have the money.

    Luckily, I had been cultivating an online audience for over a year and I decided to start a fundraiser for the $3,500. I ended up raising more than I needed in a matter of days.

    This simply would not have been possible without fostering an online community of fans of my work. I agree with your points and obviously the film comes first. But, to not think of this stuff at all is foolish. Everyone now-a-days thinks they're a filmmaker just because they own a digital SLR camera with movie mode. Check out It's chuck full of people who like to shoot really pretty things with shallow depth of field. But, no one's making any engaging stories with this new technology. And I'm sure no one will debate that above all, story comes first.

    But, I think because of the fact that EVERYONE is now a "filmmaker" means we have to work even harder to get noticed. I don't have a manager. I don't have an agent. I just have myself. And right now, I'm doing a pretty good job at "getting myself out there" via social media tools.

    In other news, I feel like a tool saying "social media tools". To be fair, a part of me dies inside everytime I twitter.


  • Cosmic | April 11, 2010 1:44 AMReply

    True True, thanks for putting it so eloquently. If I may add an observation, a lot of this stuff is just excess in the public sector - you know, people who get jobs telling the rest of us how to be entrepreneurs, creatives, freelancers etc? Fire them and split their salaries between us so we can print some flyers. Otherwise, just fuck off and let us get on with what we do - artists have survived for 1000s of years without seminars ran by quangos :-)

  • Dylan Marchetti | April 11, 2010 1:14 AMReply

    I have to put an asterisk by my signature. I agree that the PUBLIC needs to little to nil about the backstory of a film's marketing and conception. But filmmakers do need resources, and not all of them are going to take the time to cold call people who can help them out (and not everyone who can help takes cold calls).

    So if we're talking about keeping the focus on films- yes, hell yes. If we're talking about assuming everyone understands the massive changes the industry has undergone, operating under the theory that great small films will magically find their way to audiences, or telling filmmakers that everything they need to know about social marketing can be found on the Twitter new user FAQ, then no. Hell no.

  • Brandon Harris | April 10, 2010 11:41 AMReply

    Hear, hear.

  • Mark | April 10, 2010 11:00 AMReply

    While I've recently become a little turned off to the DIY echo-chamber myself, I've been to some of these events, and have benefited from them, just by the people I've met and subsequently worked with. This alone is worth the price of admission.

    I definitely agree about focusing more on the work, and have had the same complaint about the movement. But I've tried to start inserting some of that into my own contributions at NEW BREED. I guess I could have written a "manifesto" myself, general, if there is one thing less useful than a self-congratulatory panel, it's a manifesto against that panel. You want people to sign this why? Are you taking it to Congress? Getting it passed as law? No, you're just circle-jerking in exactly the same way you're accusing the panel culture of doing.

    But overall, the proof is in the pudding. These panels have their problems, but many of the people taking part in them are a hell of a lot more accomplished professionally than you are. So who am I going to try to listen to and learn from and meet and work with? People like Lance Weller, Brian Neuman, Ted Hope? Jeff Gomez?

    Or you?

    I think you are right about some things here, but your tone isn't defensible considering I've seen nothing to convince me you know what you're talking about.

  • Brook Hinton | April 10, 2010 10:11 AMReply

    How can anyone be a fan of something they haven't seen? It's absurd.

    It's supposed to be about the art. Otherwise why bother?

    I do think Mr. Hope & Co. have done some marvelous things and inspired some potentially good ideas, but if "Independent Film" remains Hollywood Lite with a little added Cerebrality, it's Not Worth Saving. Period.

    Who was it that joked about the lack of "Wendy and Lucy" T Shirts seen around campuses? The problem is so much of the current discussion is only relevant to independent film as industrial product. If we're going to nurture the future great film artists (they sure aren't coming from Hollywood), stop clinging to business models and "paths to success" and go back to making real art that has a reason to exist beyond providing an income stream. *Then* find the best way to get it out there.

    Can you imagine transmedia marketing from Akerman? Cassavettes? Antonioni? Bela Tarr? Rohmer? Or even Hal Hartley? And they ALREADY HAVE FANS. Maybe it could work for Caveh Zahedi's "I Am A Sex Addict" due to its subject, but can you imagine it working for "I Don't Hate Las Vegas Anymore?". And we need more films like the latter.

    Note that so many of the most challenging and interesting independent films of the last several years are minimalist productions done purely for the art of it.

    Indieland could use a good Jon Josting.

    Brook Hinton

  • Lucas McNelly | April 10, 2010 10:00 AMReply

    this is a nice Utopian ideal, but it's also career suicide.

  • Ritesh Batra | April 10, 2010 6:41 AMReply

    I am in, and moreover I do not want to promote my latest project on this manifesto or God forbid...on a panel. :-). Cheers,

  • Joe Anderson | April 10, 2010 6:39 AMReply


  • Duncan Derry | April 10, 2010 5:35 AMReply

    Yes- - - well - - - yes.

  • Princeton Holt | April 10, 2010 4:18 AMReply

    I hope those that take part in this discussion don't forget the fact that the author of this manifesto is also a filmmaker with more than 3 DIY films under his belt that all made significant noise in the marketplace.

    One in particular he worked on, was directed by a friend of mine. When my debut no budget DIY feature was in post-production, I reached out to my friend and asked his advice on this very subject - fest premieres, blogs, vlogs, etc. His advice to me was what he and the author of this manifesto did - keep the film quiet so that it is more of a discovery when you debut at a film festival, as opposed to this over-hyped machine by the time it premieres, and the audience's hopes and expectations are through the roof from your hype (or over-hype). I took his advice because, well these guys made a splash with their no budget DIY film via the festival circuit. They simply made the film and let it speak for itself. Then after the premiere, just as a lot of awesome, breakthrough films have in the past, it got more buzz, more press, more reviews, and plenty more notable film festival invites. This was his advice: "Say nothing."

    The author of this manifesto has had this happen over and over again with his films. He speaks from experience. Most of the films made by he and/or his friends haven't had to jump thru the endless hoops of self promotion via sharing each and every detail of the process BEFORE we see a single frame of film. If anything, maybe a little more is revealed...but AFTER there is a reaction to it at a festival premiere. We (some of us) crave more after it debuts because we are now invested in learning about how it got made, the motivations behind it, and now we want to follow it on Facebook, Twitter, and the others, and possibly wait on its DVD release.

    He's only being honest (from his perspective). As the producer of a catalog of over 10 no budget features, I happen to be one of those kinds of individuals that would rather believe the bitter truth than a sweet lie. I mean lets really analyze the breakout DIY, no budget, ultra low budget films in the last decade (we did this very thing HERE: ). If you notice in that list, which was posted on our blog at the end of 2009, only ONE of the films on this list of 13 breakthrough DIY titles did you know about prior to its festival premiere. Actually, I stand corrected. Four Eyed Monsters, the film I am referring to, you only knew about AFTER it premiered at Slamdance! FEM is easily one of the most noted DIY film success-stories, and you only knew about their film after it premiered at the festival. I mean, how many of us were following day to day developments of Medicine for Melancholy before its festival premiere? What about Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation? Did I miss Bujalski's Youtube diary as he was in pre-production on these films? Or did he not do them and just concentrate his energy on the work? Thank god he chose the latter. Now the films have timeless qualities to them. Paul Osborne's Official Rejection is another film that gained momentum on the festival circuit not before. In fact, I would argue that nearly all of the breakout stars of DIY cinema never spoke about their projects much before they shot, edited, and premiered them. Swanberg did a little blogging early on for his films, but that's it. No Youtube, no Facebook, and this was well before the Twitter craze. Lynn Shelton just went out and made the movies. Look where she is. Same with Aaron Katz. Hell, even Paranormal Activity had the reserve, the all out confidence in product to wait until its festival premiere to talk more about it, then with the help of the studio launch their online campaign. If anyone can provide actual films that serve as case studies supporting the opposite approach in this DIY, no budget universe, please let us know, for the sake of "discussion."

    Tully's right. I'm a film lover first and foremost. I want to feel like I discovered something. I want to be drawn to a film that had a nice, quiet, confident premiere at a film festival. And it doesnt have to be SXSW.

    - Princeton Holt
    One Way or Another Productions

  • Alejandor! | April 10, 2010 3:35 AMReply

    Boys, there's a civil war a-comin'

  • todd sklar | April 10, 2010 1:23 AMReply

    Steve Japan endorses this

  • Miles Maker | April 10, 2010 1:06 AMReply

    YOU said:
    "A production’s back-story only becomes relevant after—not before—one has watched the film on a screen. Once we see your film and like (or dislike) it, that is when we will decide if we want to learn more about how it came to be."

    I say:
    How do you intend to develop your audience?
    Discovering fans, earning their loyalty and engaging them in ongoing discussion, interaction and discourse is what elevates your film from the depths of obscurity--thinking you can do this AFTER your money is spent and your film is made is exactly why panel discussions exist; to dispel the myth that you can simply, "build it and they will come."

    YOU said:
    "Because of this technological advancement, these panels have begun to feel increasingly unnecessary, a summing up of the latest ideas rather than a newly informative experience."

    I say:
    These panels connect and introduce like-minds in a physical space which fosters relationships, community and collaboration. And yes most panels are indeed a collective sum of the many Internet voices you speak about, simply because many filmmakers spend their time actually making films rather than blogging and tweeting about making films. Panels and industry gatherings are absolutely essential to our collective and individual growth and development.

    YOU said:
    "From this point forth, we are only interested in the film itself. By marketing your marketing, you are only alienating us. If you are doing anything, you are making us not want to watch your film."

    I say:
    If you aren't interested in watching the film after discovering more about it, this process probably isn't for you anyway--and perhaps it spared you a 90-minute disappointment. Even Hollywood films engage audiences through major media outlets BEFORE the film is complete with interviews, stills, clues and sneak-peaks; continuing on with DVD extras behind the scenes, cast/crew commentary and outtakes. Fans of film want to be more informed about how their films were and are being made and this vested interest gives them reason to buy.

    YOU said:
    "We call for a ban of the conversations/panels/symposiums/etc. about “How To Market Your Indie Movie In The New Media World!” until at least 2012, when these troubles will naturally work themselves out."

    I say:
    Work themselves out?
    In your favor?
    Are you asking big business to slam the windows of opportunity shut in your face before you even know they exist?
    Do you care about consumer trends and emerging technologies enough to know more about how you can sell your film and survive as a filmmaker?
    This very same reactionary attitude is why indie filmmakers continue to starve. No more.

    I conclude:
    It sounds to me like this manifesto is more about being overwhelmed with information you are unsure how to process or implement to your advantage rather than it being detrimental to a filmmaker's potential for success. At the end of the day every industry is in perpetual conversation with itself--sharing their successes, failures, news and information of interest and benefit to it's fellow practitioners. Consider a filmmaker's journey as a case study--with strategies to employ and lessons to be learned, and frankly, their aren't enough of them! We need even MORE transparency. You can simply ignore the noise or make your own.

    Thank you for starting this panel discussion!

    [Miles Maker is a story author, auteur, cross-platform distributor and thought leader whose dynamic media ventures converge mobile, social and real-time interactions @milesmaker on Twitter]

  • Pamela | April 9, 2010 12:22 PMReply

    I'm in. Thank you, brother.

  • Matthew Groves | April 9, 2010 11:28 AMReply

    Matthew Groves - The Alternative Chronicle:

  • Dylan Marchetti | April 9, 2010 10:31 AMReply

    I'm on board, although to be completely honest I did a panel discussion at Full Frame about eight hours ago. So I'll sign with the caveat that I will do any panel discussion hosted by someone brilliant (Michelle Byrd this morning).

  • Doug Dillaman | April 9, 2010 10:21 AMReply

    As an independent filmmaker well outside the NYC noise machine (which is to say, in New Zealand), trying to find ways to get a first feature into the world while being obliquely exposed to these symposiums of which you speak, I find this challenging, provocative, and frustrating in equal measure.

    That said, I'm going to focus on the latter. In this day and age, all conversations are open to everybody, and the "independent film community" of the internet has a blurry blurry line between film-makers and film-lovers. And I can certainly imagine for the film lover who has no desire to make a film and yet follows Twitter feeds of people who live on the other side of the fence, it's frustrating to have a day of incredibly high noise-to-signal content.

    But for me, all this talk about "finances" and "publicity" is not about making a huge breakthrough and a bajillion dollars (and I feel sorry for those misguided souls who still, in 2010, think that's an option) - it's about making sure that those who have invested money in the film make their money back, which at the lowest of budget levels (where we reside) is a much more attainable goal than in years past, perhaps. And as much as I feel committed to my film on a creative level, I also feel morally committed to do right by the rest of the team that believed in me. And for filmmakers in the same position, a conversation about how to do so, while perhaps often misguided or laughable in some details, is essential.

    Why should you care, as a film lover? To be honest, you probably shouldn't. Fetishizing DIY has undoubtedly led to a deluge of crap by filmmakers who might have been better off spending more time improving their filmmaking senses before creating their first film.

    But here in New Zealand I see the ripple effects of this international discussion. I see more established filmmakers who have had their frustrations with the system stepping outside it to make their most recent work, and a bubbling pool of creatives who are trying to figure out a way to, for a reasonable amount of money, make more films via modest means. And while "more" is not necessarily a virtue in and of itself, the hope and belief is that the less grueling the mechanisms of production become, the more the filmmaker can focus on their craft and vision.

    And so, no matter how inane they may become, I am grateful for these discussions - just like I was grateful back in the day when I was more interested in music than film, that labels like Simple Machines or zines like Maxumum Rock & Roll were providing DIY resources without shame. I imagine if technology was different and Twitter existed then, we would have had this debate about independent music, and how annoying the discussion around it was becoming, and how none of this would lead to success (a point brought up by Vadim in his related article). But twenty years later, we can see a label like Merge - a label that's always been about publicly discussing their sensible DIY approach and supporting artists creatively in equal measure - releasing best-selling albums that, regardless of how you feel about the individual artists, are not compromised.

    And if all these discussions end in a future world where uncompromised films can reach a wider audience who are passionate about them in a similar way, then I have to think that's good for everybody. Even if the average film lover who is uninterested in process will be happier having virtual earplugs for some of the ride towards that future world.

  • Bossi B | April 9, 2010 10:16 AMReply

    god bless.

  • Brent Chesanek | April 9, 2010 9:46 AMReply


  • George Manatos | April 9, 2010 9:35 AMReply


  • George Rush | April 9, 2010 9:34 AMReply


  • Danny Costa | April 9, 2010 9:30 AMReply

    Well said, very appreciated, and eagerly signed.


  • Princeton Holt | April 9, 2010 9:29 AMReply

    Princeton "motherfucking" Holt

  • john lichman | April 9, 2010 9:26 AMReply

    signed. etc. now if you'll excuse me, i have to be put in for panels at tribeca that I have to cover.

  • James McNally | April 9, 2010 9:17 AMReply


  • Mynette Louie | April 9, 2010 9:16 AMReply

    A caveat before people start jumping down my throat: I have enjoyed sharing information with other filmmakers, and while I agree with most of what Mike says, I do think that we (unfortunately) need keep talking about the biz--if we don't, then we won't be able to figure out ways to keep making films--but not at the expense of talking about the films themselves. I do think that writers and directors should be somewhat shielded from "biz" concerns, at least at story/script conception, and leave it up to their producers to help them and their films navigate between art and commerce.

  • Jennifer Warren | April 9, 2010 9:15 AMReply

    Woo Hoo!!

  • Mynette Louie | April 9, 2010 9:04 AMReply

    As a sometime panel participant and frequent subject of interviews and inquiries on DIY distribution, I wholeheartedly agree! Please stop asking me questions so I can go back to making movies! I'm no pundit, nor do I aspire to be. I don't have any answers for you, only anecdotes. So please just read this instead: Thanks!

  • Robert Greene | April 9, 2010 8:51 AMReply


  • David Lowery | April 9, 2010 8:33 AMReply

    F yeah

  • sami khan | April 9, 2010 8:32 AMReply

    Well said guys.

    Do these DIY and indy film panelists ever stop to think that the reason American independent film is struggling is because they spend more time obsessing about the minutiae of finance and social networks and marketing than a film's meaning or story or artistic importance?

  • Tom Russell | April 9, 2010 8:05 AMReply

    This I will sign.