Digital Production Buzz
April 17, 2014
[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]
Christina Lee Storm, Producer, Accelerated Entertainment
Dirk Norris, President/Executive Director, New Mexico Film Foundation
Brad Stoddard, President, New Mexico Post Alliance
Jessica Hall, Director, Innovate Practice / 3Pillar Global
Nic Novicki, Founder/Director, Disability Film Challenge
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Larry Jordan: And welcome to The Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for creative content producers and tech news from media production, post production, marketing and distribution around the world. My name is Larry Jordan and it’s good to welcome back our co-host, Mr. Mike Horton.
Mike Horton: And it’s good to be welcome back you, my friend.
Larry Jordan: I tell you, after last week – we were at NAB – and it seems like it was a month ago.
Mike Horton: I don’t even remember any of it. Do you?
Larry Jordan: It was a blur. There was just so much going on. We’re going to talk a lot about what happened, both at the Supermeet and at the Buzz at NAB a little bit later in the show, but I want to talk about our guests first. We’re going to start with Christina Lee Storm. She’s a producer at Accelerated Entertainment and a film maker who created a documentary about the final bankruptcy that ended the legendary Rhythm & Hues. She joins us tonight to talk about the company that she used to work for.
Larry Jordan: Dirk Norris is the Founder and Executive Director for the New Mexico Film Foundation. He’s joined by Brad Stoddard, the President of the New Mexico Post Alliance, to talk about a new promotion called Life in New Mexico.
Larry Jordan: Jessica Hall is the Director of the Innovate Practice at 3Pillar Global, which is a company that helps turn your content into cash. Recently, Jessica spoke at the NAB show and joins us tonight to talk about tips we can use in our projects to maximize revenue and audience involvement without spending a ton of money.
Larry Jordan: And Nic Novicki is the Founder and Director of the Disability Film Challenge. This is modeled after the 48 Hour Film Challenge and Nic created this to encourage film makers with disabilities to hone their craft.
Larry Jordan: Just a reminder that we are offering text transcripts for each show, courtesy of Take 1 Transcription. Now you can quickly scan or print the contents of each show, as well as listen to it. Transcripts are located on each show page. Learn more at take1.tv and thanks, Take 1, for making this possible.
Larry Jordan: You know, Mike, it seems like forever ago, but NAB only ended a week ago today. Do you remember anything from it?
Mike Horton: I did, just barely. The food.
Larry Jordan: Ah. You know, I love that show.
Mike Horton: The food was awesome.
Larry Jordan: And, by the way, you did an incredible job at Supermeet, standing on…
Mike Horton: Oh, it was awesome. It was so much fun.
Larry Jordan: 500,000 people?
Mike Horton: I think I got to see you for about a total of 30 seconds. I said, “Hi Larry,” and I’m running to someplace else to put out a fire.
Larry Jordan: You had your wireless headset on, a worried expression on your face and you were looking for a speaker that had gone missing.
Mike Horton: I do, I feel like the last ten years of Supermeets I’ve had worried expressions on my face. That’s all I do is worried expressions. Panic expressions.
Larry Jordan: None of the rest of us would notice.
Mike Horton: But I did visit your booth while you were interviewing somebody but I couldn’t say a thing. I know you did, what, 156 interviews.
Larry Jordan: We did 81 interviews in three and a half days and 12 hours of programming.
Mike Horton: How the heck do you prep for that?
Larry Jordan: You’ve got to focus. You’ve got to stay tuned in.
Mike Horton: Boy, do you ever.
Larry Jordan: It’s pretty amazing.
Mike Horton: No, I’m impressed. I’m proud of you and your team.
Larry Jordan: It’s all the team. If it hadn’t been for the people around us, we would have not gotten anything done; and you, by the way, assembled an incredible team at Supermeet. I want to talk about how you build those shows a little later in the show, but for right now a reminder to visit us on Facebook, at digitalproductionbuzz.com; or on Twitter, @dpbuzz; and you can subscribe to our weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com for all the latest news on both our show and the industry.
Larry Jordan: We’re going to be talking about some really nice documentaries produced by Christina Lee Storm right after this.
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Larry Jordan: Christina Lee Storm is an independent producer and partner for her production company, Accelerated Entertainment. She has produced a number of successful documentaries, including Life After Pi, documenting the death of the legendary visual effects company Rhythm & Hues. She was the production supervisor for the highly acclaimed 2012 Oscar winning film The Artist and manager of digital production at Rhythm & Hues Studios which filed for bankruptcy just before they won an Oscar for The Life of Pi. Hello, Christina.
Christina Lee Storm: Hello. Thank you for having me.
Larry Jordan: We are delighted to have you with us. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation for a while. Let’s start with, oh, casting our minds back a little bit. What got you interested in producing films?
Christina Lee Storm: Oh gosh, that’s a great question. It started, like a lot of people, when you’re young and impressionable, I was probably in junior high/high school and would go and frequent the movie theater and was really impacted by the characters portrayed up on the big screen and how I could relate to them and how I could just be drawn into a completely new world, so I thought that was amazing and began an interest probably in high school of wanting to make movies.
Larry Jordan: Well, after a stint in the industry, that’s exactly what you’ve done and I want to talk about some of the movies you’ve produced in a second. But why did you decide to start, when you left Rhythm & Hues, or actually it left you, to produce documentaries? These tend not to be a great way to make money.
Christina Lee Storm: I actually had produced a documentary prior to leaving Rhythm & Hues and actually we started in production when I was still there, so it was an interesting time. We were in transition. The company had filed bankruptcy and then we were being bought by a new company and I kind of took the company through transition, took my department through transition, and then a new opportunity came up and I felt that it was probably best to go at that time, and so we continued post production for Life After Pi after leaving Rhythm & Hues.
Larry Jordan: Well, tell us about your role at Rhythm & Hues when you were working there and then tell us about the final days, just paint us a picture.
Christina Lee Storm: Yes, so I had two different stints that totaled about five years at Rhythm & Hues. The last time I was there was as a manager and my main task was to hire and place digital artists on all the various feature films that we had in-house. At the time, there were probably about eight films and I was specifically hiring for the lighting portion in the pipeline and, because lighting is a bit technical, it’s a little bit more of a puzzle piece because you have to place people where they are good and where there’s a certain skill set involved.
Christina Lee Storm: I think at one point I definitely had over 100 artists that I was managing, probably a little bit more.
Larry Jordan: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. You were managing 100 artists?
Christina Lee Storm: Yes.
Larry Jordan: Oh my goodness.
Mike Horton: And all these artists were in Los Angeles?
Christina Lee Storm: Actually, most of the artists were in Los Angeles and then there was a team in Vancouver. The team was a little bit smaller, but they were working on RIPD and Snow White and the Huntsman and then I worked with my counterparts in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as well as two locations in India – Hyderabad and Mumbai – so it was LA plus the four other locations.
Mike Horton: That’s a lot of Skype.
Christina Lee Storm: We had our own version of Skype.
Mike Horton: Yes, I bet.
Larry Jordan: You’ve got all these films going at the same time, you’ve got this huge team of people and yet the whole company craters. What happened?
Christina Lee Storm: We kind of highlight that a little bit in the short documentary Life After Pi. I see it as a combination of the business model that the current visual effects vendors are in with the studios. It’s just really difficult and when you combine both a technical craft plus a creative craft together, it’s really quite difficult and it takes a lot more manpower, a lot more man weeks, a lot more iterations to come to a consensus in some degree. It’s just lots of balance and, as Johnny has described in the film, when we have delays or something comes up that’s not scheduled, it’s really hard to move people
Christina Lee Storm: If you imagine I’ve hired specific people to do specific tasks and I place them on certain shows, you can’t necessarily pull off people who are lighting Richard Parker and put them on something else and, you know, you take them completely off the show. It’s really hard to do that, so unless you can fit some smaller projects in during that time that a film is delayed, we’re put on hiatus. It’s complicated.
Larry Jordan: Oh yes. I want to emphasize that you were not part of the management team at Rhythm & Hues and a lot of the information you gained as you were putting your documentary together, so I’m just trying to help understand the situation. Why couldn’t Rhythm & Hues just ask the studios for more money?
Christina Lee Storm: I think they always tried to. Yes, I wasn’t part of the bidding or that end in terms of the executives talking to the studios, but I think it’s hard. I think it’s really competitive. If you look at it, and we show it visually, there are only really six clients, so you have to sort of please six clients.
Larry Jordan: Which are the six major studios.
Mike Horton: Right.
Larry Jordan: One of the things that your website refers to in promoting the movie Life After Pi is that Hollywood is treating the visual effects industry under the old Hollywood system model. What does that mean?
Christina Lee Storm: I like to describe that as, in the last ten, even 15 years, we’ve had a digital shift and a lot of times, I think, in old school thinking folks would always push things, everything was about production, everything was about being on set and “We’ll fix it in post,” there’s always that saying and it’s not the case. You talk to anyone who works on anything now, you can’t do that. Or if you do, it really severely crunches that team. The idea behind that is that we have to look at making production, especially the huge $100 million film, in a different way.
Christina Lee Storm: We’ve been fortunate, like on Life After Pi, we had Ang Lee and his team. We started very early in the R&D portion, but I think it’s so important that these people, the visual effects team, are creative. They’re part of the creatives, so you need to include them as early as possible and I think that’s part of the key in that respect. We have to look at how we make film making in a slightly different way.
Mike Horton: But that’s not going to solve the problem of the visual effects industry, especially if we want to keep it in Los Angeles or keep it in America.
Christina Lee Storm: Yes, yes. I think it will help, I think it helps efficiencies because, as we know, playing telephone doesn’t help. You kind of need to be in the room with someone, especially when you’re trying to create something creative, so it does help. It would probably skim off some man weeks, but you’re right in saying that it’s a much bigger issue and so perhaps, and what we’re hoping through our film, by educating people, we’re over 1.1 million views on YouTube, that there’s a need, that this has to change. There’s a time for evolution to happen now in terms of where we are at digitally and how we make films. We make films in a much different way.
Mike Horton: And, of course, there are a handful of people out there working tirelessly to solve this problem – Scott Squires comes to the top of my head, and a number of others. I saw the film as soon as it came out, because Scott Squires and Scott Ross were a part of this film and I co-produce this event called the Supermeet and you actually use some of that footage in the film.
Mike Horton: Talking to Scott, who is a friend of mine, it is a very frustrating and very difficult task that he has ahead to solve this problem, number one due to the apathy and that there are a lot of workers out there who are afraid to speak up, and we can go into the subsidies and tax credits and all this other stuff forever, but boy it’s a difficult task to solve.
Christina Lee Storm: It really is. Our film industry has been around for a while and so those that were in the beginnings of the shaping of it, unions were created and film workers were protected. They had to be protected because of the stressful and difficult and long hours and all that stuff.
Mike Horton: Do you yourself believe that a guild or a union might help solve this problem?
Christina Lee Storm: Right now, it’s really hard because that community doesn’t necessarily have an organization that represents them. I think it’s important to have some kind of cohesiveness but what’s then more complicated on top of things is the visual effects community is international. We have our PGA, producers’ guild and Directors’ Guild of America, so it gets sort of tricky, I think, with how that is going to play out. A lot of times these artists are US citizens but they’ve been living in New Zealand or Australia…
Mike Horton: And they’re taking their families and they’re moving to Vancouver and Toronto and New Zealand and London and it’s insane.
Larry Jordan: But I don’t think this is a Los Angeles problem, is it? It seems to be an industry problem, regardless of where the post house is located. Would you agree or disagree?
Christina Lee Storm: I would definitely agree. It’s not just LA. There’s a quote we always talk about, Scott Leberecht, who is the director, and I, as we’ve been interviewed which is you live by the subsidies, you die by the subsidies. This is to mean that you could just chase it, but eventually those may die and if you need those subsidies to live, you’re eventually not going to be sustainable.
Mike Horton: Yes, and we go to Vancouver and then Toronto underbids Vancouver and then Montreal underbids Toronto and it’s a race to the bottom, as you know.
Christina Lee Storm: Yes, exactly. Exactly. That quote exactly, yes.
Larry Jordan: Where can people go to find your film?
Christina Lee Storm: We are actually free on YouTube and they just need to search Life After Pi. It’s under our Hollywood Ending movie channel and people should subscribe, because we are releasing things as they come up for our bigger projects.
Mike Horton: Yes, you did a remarkable job and one of the best things is that John Hughes, before this movie came out, was a bad guy and you turned him into a real guy. Good for you.
Christina Lee Storm: Yes, well, what’s interesting is, if you had worked at the company probably at least a couple of years and you saw him walking in the halls, you would know this is a man who actually – and he talks about it in the film – he cared.
Mike Horton: Oh, absolutely. Good on you and good job.
Larry Jordan: Christina, where can people go on the web to learn more about you and your company? We’ve got to get that music fixed.
Mike Horton: Is that what happens?
Larry Jordan: Christina, if she could…
Mike Horton: If she can hear us.
Larry Jordan: If she could hear us, she would say that her website is acceleratedent.com. Christina Lee Storm is the producer for Accelerated Entertainment and I would then say, Christina, it’s been wonderful having you on the show.
Mike Horton: And also, everybody, watch this movie. It’s so important. This is not about just VFX; it’s about all of us.
Larry Jordan: Called Life After Pi on YouTube. We’ll be back right after this.
Larry Jordan: Dirk Norris is the former Outreach Programs Manager for the New Mexico State Film Office and recently he formed the New Mexico Film Foundation, to help grow the New Mexico independent film industry. Hello, Dirk.
Dirk Norris: Hi.
Larry Jordan: And with Dirk is another handsome gentleman. Brad Stoddard is an award winning film maker, artist and photographer with credits covering educational media, television, feature and documentary film. He’s also the President of the New Mexico Post Alliance and a certified Final Cut Pro 10 trainer. Hello, Brad, welcome.
Brad Stoddard: Hello, Larry. How are you? Hi Michael.
Mike Horton: Hi Brad.
Larry Jordan: Brad, we’re doing great. You get to sit down and relax for a couple of minutes and we’ll talk to Dirk first. Dirk, why did you decide to start the New Mexico Film Foundation?
Dirk Norris: Well, it was to fill in some gaps that existed. New Mexico has been very good in recruiting films to be made here, but there’s also a very vibrant independent film community here that needed a little support. There were programs that used to exist that no longer do and so the Foundation was formed to fill in those gaps and provide some educational opportunities, as well as some financial assistance, to New Mexico independent film makers.
Larry Jordan: Why is it necessary?
Dirk Norris: Because, at the very core, the arts need to be supported and if you can’t find the investors, I mean, that’s what we’re aiming for, is getting people to invest in these films; but in the meantime film makers still need to be able to tell their stories.
Mike Horton: Do you have any support from the state at all for your Foundation?
Dirk Norris: At present no and hopefully, for the next legislative session, we’ll be able to talk to the representatives and perhaps get some support that way. Right now, it’s private donations.
Mike Horton: Ok, so you’re focused on the indie film maker who lives and works in New Mexico, not in bringing more Hollywood into New Mexico.
Dirk Norris: Yes, absolutely.
Mike Horton: Well, good on you.
Larry Jordan: Now, be nice to him. Be nice to him.
Mike Horton: Well, hey, listen, I live in Hollywood.
Dirk Norris: And you guys are terrific.
Larry Jordan: Thank you, you can stay on the show, I appreciate that. Brad, tell us what the New Mexico Post Alliance is.
Brad Stoddard: The New Mexico Post Alliance is an alliance of post production people in New Mexico who have gotten together, with our main goal being to do educational events. We do quarterly events, kind of networking trade organizations, about 120 members, who want to get together and talk about post production. We have editors, visual effects artists, composers, ADR people, foley people. We even have a few producers and directors who are members.
Larry Jordan: Oh, you’ll associate with anyone, won’t you?
Brad Stoddard: Yes, we’ll get along with anybody, anybody who wants to come to our events. In fact, June 21st, we’re putting on an event with Michael Cioni and Sam Mestman.
Mike Horton: Oh, wonderful. Sam, I know…
Brad Stoddard: Yes, you know those guys.
Mike Horton: Yes, absolutely. Those guys are awesome.
Brad Stoddard: They’re going to be here talking about their workflows and stuff like that, so we’re trying to actually raise the level of professional post production in New Mexico and get more of it going on.
Mike Horton: You should get Larry Jordan to come.
Brad Stoddard: Yes, well let’s…
Mike Horton: Larry?
Larry Jordan: All they have to do is invite me. I’ve got a plane ticket already in hand.
Mike Horton: He’s got a lot of South West credits.
Larry Jordan: Brad, why did the Post Alliance decide, or you yourself decide, to get involved with the New Mexico Film Foundation?
Brad Stoddard: That’s a good question. No, sorry, Dirk. They’re a great organization. We’d been working together actually before they started the Foundation to do some of our events and things and Dirk came up with this idea for the Life in New Mexico project – I guess you wanted to go there – and we kind of collaborate on that. I’m sort of an editorial producer on that project and the Foundation is just a great way to bring together hopefully some funds and some money to independent producers.
Brad Stoddard: We have a lot of Hollywood going on here and a lot of Hollywood films being made here. Not too many people are staying here to do the post on it, so independent film is really what we’re looking to for the post production staying here, the production being here and I think the Film Foundation is a great avenue to get that to happen.
Larry Jordan: Well, Brad, I know that you were listening to the last segment, when Christina was talking, and clearly the post industry is a bigger industry than just visual effects, but what are your thoughts on the challenges that Christina was talking about with the VFX industry? Are you seeing the same kind of challenges in New Mexico?
Brad Stoddard: Oh, certainly. Everybody’s up against the same thing. The whole industry is changing so fast, not only visual effects but the whole film industry really, and visual effects is getting the fallout on cheap labor in other countries and all of that kind of thing, so I think what’s happening here, we have two really incredible visual effects companies here that formed after Sony Imageworks left the state – people wanted to stay in the state because they loved it – and they are working pretty hard to raise the level and do this great work.
Brad Stoddard: Now, I’m sure they’re struggling with some of those same things. The contracts and the jobs that they can get are probably parts and pieces. A lot of what we do in post in New Mexico is parts and pieces of other things, not the whole enchilada, so to speak.
Mike Horton: I think we all know, at least the ones who pay attention, that New Mexico does give out very generous tax subsidies and credits to Hollywood which attracts, of course, production.
Brad Stoddard: Yes, we have a 25 and 30 percent incentive now, 30 percent for television series, and there are, I think, three television series shooting here now and several films.
Larry Jordan: But what I’m interested in is you said people are shooting there but they’re not retaining for post, so the post is coming back to LA or New York?
Mike Horton: Yes, exactly, how many permanent jobs are they actually generating?
Brad Stoddard: Well, that’s the thing. I think the real problem is, I mean, if I lived in LA or New York and I came here to shoot a film, I would want to go home and spend that time with my family and do the next six months or year in post in my state where I lived so I could stay with my family and I think that’s the biggest thing.
Brad Stoddard: Even though we have the incentives, they don’t hold those people here who really want to be at home.
Mike Horton: Which is why what you’re doing is very important.
Larry Jordan: And Dirk, this gets me to the project you’re working on. Tell me what the Life in New Mexico project is.
Dirk Norris: This was inspired by the Ridley Scott project he did with YouTube called Life in a Day, where he asked people around the world to shoot video on July 24th, and this was several years ago, and then submit it and they got over 8,000 hours of video. We have asked the general public in New Mexico to send us three minutes of their life in New Mexico and it can be anything – it can be pulling on your socks or going to visit grandma or saddling a horse or whatever.
Dirk Norris: We’ll give those video clips to the editors, to the post production folks in New Mexico, and ask them to put together a ten minute video and the whole idea is to bring attention to post production. The ten minute videos then will be screened around the state on September 20th and we’re hoping to get 15 to 20 theaters around the state involved in this, so that people get a better understanding of what post production is all about.
Larry Jordan: Dirk, we’re almost out of time. What website can people go to?
Dirk Norris: Nmfilmfoundation.org.
Larry Jordan: That’s nmfilmfoundation.org. Dirk Norris is the President and Executive Director at the New Mexico Film Foundation and Brad Stoddard is the head of the New Mexico Post Alliance. Gentlemen, thank you so very much.
Mike Horton: Yes, thanks for what you’re doing.
Larry Jordan: Take care.
Dirk Norris: Thank you guys.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Jessica Hall is the Director of the Innovate Practice at 3Pillar Global, where she specializes in bringing new ideas to market through rapid prototyping. Her work’s been recognized by the Web Marketing Association, the American Association of Museums, the Webby Awards, Time, Graphics Design USA, Forbes and the Washington Post. She holds a Masters degree in design and digital media from the University of Edinburgh, a BA in journalism from American University and I am delighted to say welcome, Jessica, good to have you with us.
Jessica Hall: Thank you so much for having me.
Larry Jordan: What is 3Pillar Global?
Jessica Hall: 3Pillar Global is a product development services company that’s focused on helping our customers achieve their business goals, so whether you have a brand new idea, if it’s a product you want to bring to market, or you have a product that you want to improve and enhance through purposeful engineering, we help clients make those things happen.
Larry Jordan: Who are some of 3Pillar’s clients?
Jessica Hall: One of the clients that might be most interesting to your audience is PBS. We’ve been with PBS for about five or six years and it started with just one person and now we have a team of over 30 working with PBS, everything from the video…, iPhone apps, iPad apps, Apple TV apps. We’ve worked on a lot of different products for PBS over the years. We also work with companies like…
Larry Jordan: Well, I was on the 3Pillar website a little earlier today as I was researching for this interview and on the homepage it says, and I quote, ‘Our team works collaboratively with businesses to develop successful software products and seamless customer experiences.’ How does software products and customer experience relate to media?
Jessica Hall: I think what’s really interesting in the media world, and this came out in ideas, that traditionally media was really p2p business. Content producers would sell to networks or other companies who distribute their content and those folks would sell to advertising agencies. Now what we’re seeing is that more and more media companies are starting to sell directly to consumers and looking for folks like us, who help create engaging consumer customer experiences so that people are able to find the content they want, watch it, enjoy it, share it and purchase it in different ways.
Larry Jordan: I can sort of get that big picture. What’s your role, then, with 3Pillar?
Jessica Hall: I get in when things are at about the napkin stage. If you have an idea for a new service or a new product and you’re trying to figure out if this is good for your business and your customers want it, that’s when my team comes in and we work with you very quickly and… to make prototypes and get these in front of customers quickly so we can figure out if it’s going to work. It’s a very… and fast approach so that you can learn as much as you can without having to sink a lot of money in it.
Larry Jordan: That’s a very cool job description. What got you started in this? Was it your training at school or your first job?
Jessica Hall: It really was for me my first job. When I was 18, I went to work at a museum and my first TV show was… and I did a lot of… at two in the morning… But when we were making the museum, we would create lots of different interactive experiences as well as… and our leadership or media people, they were all mostly… news publishers, so they were very literal, very about the facts, so we would come up with different ways to experiment and create prototypes so they could really see how things were going to work and how people were responding to them.
Jessica Hall: We did it just to get approval, but we realized that, by building them and building them fast with very little research, because it was non-profit, we made things that were better and so that approach really helped the museum in order to get it off the ground and have a lot of experiences that folks of all ages to be engaging, and that was definitely my intro to the media and television world.
Larry Jordan: Well, let’s fast forward a few years from your first job to last week, where you were at the NAB conference and you were talking about monetizing content, which basically means making money off the stuff we already have. What did you cover in your talk?
Jessica Hall: It was really exciting to be at NAB, because I’ve heard about it for years.
Larry Jordan: Was this your first trip?
Jessica Hall: First trip, yes.
Larry Jordan: Oh! I wish I could have been there with you. I’ve been there since before you were born and to watch it with somebody who’s seeing it for the first time is such a treat.
Jessica Hall: Oh my gosh, it blew my mind. In our session, we did more of a workshop approach. There are a lot of folks who are interested in concept… We had some people who were just independent, who were making their own content and trying to figure out how to sell it through consumers through big networks, who were trying to figure out new ways to engage with their customers.
Jessica Hall: In many case, even with the amount of resources that are available, the challenge is really the same – it’s who is this person and who am I going to get them to open up their log?
Larry Jordan: But it seems to me there’s a significant disadvantage and independent producers have that networks don’t. Networks have an established brand, it seems to me, whereas independent producers are unheard of and they’re working on their first, their second, their third movie and they don’t have the established brand or an established audience. It seems to me that independents would be at a great disadvantage, or am I hearing that wrong?
Jessica Hall: No, I would definitely agree. I think it’s a similar challenge but their resourcing obviously is a little bit different and the brand comes into play because it helps cut through the noise. That being said, the traditional brands have been serving very specific audiences so that there are different audiences that are really eager for content. It was really neat to work through things in the session and I did two exercises.
Jessica Hall: One exercise is something I call the content monetization canvas, which is based on a business model canvas, and it’s a way of mapping out your strategy on one page. You can see everything and see how it relates and then you can start to figure out what’s missing, what do I know for sure, what don’t I know for sure, how can I test these things?
Jessica Hall: So we did that canvas and then we did another exercise around understanding your customer needs and being able to classify it, called the… model. In a… model, there are three different types of needs. One is a basic need – either things that, if you don’t have them, like clean towels in your hotel room, you’re going to be pretty frustrated; and I almost equate lighting to a basic need, because if lighting works nobody notices it, but if lighting’s bad, everybody knows.
Jessica Hall: The second category is called the performance needs and these are things that people think about when they’re buying. They have some incremental effect on people’s satisfaction; and the last one is called the delighter – it’s the surprise, it’s something that’s out of the ordinary and unique and really, really makes customers happy and helping people not only takes your content… but has a way, they’re delivering that…
Larry Jordan: It seems to me that the first exercise forces an independent producer to think of all the different assets they’ve got, to take a look at a bigger picture of what they have to offer, not just their particular film, but the experience of watching the film, perhaps; whereas the second exercise forces them to think like a customer who’s trying to buy their film. Is that a correct characterization?
Jessica Hall: That’s a very correct characterization and part of the fun of when I do these with people is I kind of walk around and start to see where are the areas that they’re not paying too much attention to and get them to focus there, or where are the areas where they’ve been kind of vague and get them to… It does not help if they’re a Japanese character, because that actually did happen to me at NAB, and for the first time ever I was like, “I’m sorry, I just can’t help you very much.”
Jessica Hall: But I think you’re exactly right. It really forces you to pull up from the content and look at it across the whole business spectrum; and then the second exercise flips it around and helps you focus on what the customer needs to be true and I think that’s where the principle challenge is that everyone has, that maybe it’s perhaps the most…, is being able to understand that customer on a much deeper level than just…
Larry Jordan: Help me think outside the box for a second. I’m an independent producer, I just finished my film, a lot of people – especially when they start out – are doing either documentaries or horror films, because those are two genres that don’t take a whole lot of money, so I’m sitting here with this brand new thriller in my hands. How do I even think about what the customer needs? I mean, they’re just watching a film. What more do I need to know?
Jessica Hall: I would actually say the best…, which is to have a sense of who are the people who are interested in this genre? Who might be wanting to see it? And start to engage them earlier in the process and have them sold into the product, and you see this all the time in a lot of start-ups, that right from the beginning they don’t make the whole film, they make a piece of it and then they try to take it out to people and see if they’re interested and, based upon people’s reactions, they build and build and build.
Jessica Hall: I would say it’s kind of a different approach. Don’t wait until you’ve finished the complete thing, but actually start to make small pieces of it and go out in the world and learn about who’s interested and why they like it and how you’re going to be able to connect with them before you get to the end. Once you’re at the end, it becomes kind of hard to re-factor this product to meet different people’s needs, so you have to think about who your potential audience is.
Jessica Hall: When I was in journalism school, the first question was always, “Ok, well, who’s your audience?” so if you’re making a documentary… says, “Ok, who is going to be interested in this documentary? Is it people who are enthusiasts or general interests?” or have a specific audience in mind and making sure you’re engaged with them throughout the whole product, then when it’s released they’re heavily invested in it.
Larry Jordan: There’s a saying that I heard a long time ago that a camel is a horse invented by a committee. If I keep sending small portions of my film out to different groups of people, I end up with what? I may not end up with a film because I’ve got all this divergent feedback.
Jessica Hall: Therein lies the greatest challenge of any piece of development, which is how to manage that. I think it’s a true and common challenge. I worked with an executive producer, I was developing a game for him, and he didn’t understand why I wanted to see user testing and so he went out me, because I think he felt that that was going to happen, that the creatives would get deluded, and it’s very much a risk and I see it happen all the time with people not just in media but outside, because they don’t apply discipline in making their decisions.
Jessica Hall: Just because someone gives you a piece of feedback doesn’t mean you necessarily act on it. You have to have some way of seeing if that fits in or if there are other things that create a pattern that show that there’s a weakness or a particular…
Larry Jordan: What questions can we ask ourselves, assuming that we couldn’t bring you in for a committee meeting, as we’re getting ready to start a new project, a new film to help us focus on making money at the back end?
Jessica Hall: Who is the person you’re making the film for? And how are you going to reach them? Am I going to use something like a Kickstarter, where I start at the beginning and then try and get people interested in filming it? Am I going to try and find an existing community of people who are interested in this genre and try and engage with them and get this together?
Jessica Hall: I would definitely start with a canvas. Some of the elements of a canvas are customer segments, marketing channels, metrics, and this was one that actually was kind of an eye opener to a lot of folks in the room. When we think about metrics, people are trying to sell content or if we have a collection of videos and we want to sell them, how do we acquire customers and how much does it cost me for each view and how can I get that cost out?
Jessica Hall: Thinking about the metrics from the business side of revenue coming in versus cost, but also from the experience side, and what’s the level of engagement you’re getting? Think about who your partners are going to be and what is the unique value proposition? And that’s not something you typically think of.
Jessica Hall: When I was creating documentaries early in my career, a value proposition wasn’t necessarily something that was top of mind, but it was what my unique voice is and making sure that there were people who were interested in my unique voice and I found a way to connect with them where I could deliver it. It’s that delivery that I think some people also don’t think about, which is am I going to build a site where I sell the content? Or am I going to produce pieces for folks and I’m going to put them in this place and develop it that way?
Jessica Hall: I think you’re going to see a variety of ways to get things in the hands of customers that aren’t necessarily the traditional ones and to spend some time thinking about who those people are and how you can get to them is something you need and that they will really value is a great place to start.
Larry Jordan: When companies like PBS or the commercial networks come to 3Pillar, they’ve got massive budgets and just looking at your website makes me realize that lots of money buys lots of talent. But as an independent producer, where we’re doing everything we can on our own, it’s easy to get discouraged because what you say makes perfect sense, but it seems like just a huge amount of work. What words of encouragement do you have for an independent producer, even if they can’t afford your services, that they can take advantage of the wisdom that you’ve attained?
Jessica Hall: I had someone at the NAB talk and they wanted to sell a service where they would create videos for people. They said, “Oh, but I need all of this infrastructure and all of these other things,” and I had to say, “Stop. No, you don’t need that. All you need is a landing space so that people can sample what you create and there’s a bunch of services out there that do that for free, and an email address where they can get in touch with you through the landing space and then you can deliver it through drop box or Vimeo,” so that really small level of engagement, just to figure out if you’re onto something.
Jessica Hall: Use a free service to put up a landing page, cut a 30 second version of the film you’re using, send that out to a lot of people, see if they get interested in seeing more of the film and then perhaps start to release it through some simple channels – put it Vimeo Pro and password protect it. Keep it small, keep it simple and try to build only that which you need to get started.
Jessica Hall: Even the companies with the big budgets are learning to do this and that’s something we advocate here. It’s called a lean start-up and developed by a guy called named Eric Ries and it’s really the notion that we’ll only do the smallest thing we can to get reaction and then to grow from there. It’s really exciting to see that mind shift happen in the room, where people are like, “Well, actually, I don’t need a huge distribution channel, I just need these simple pieces and parts and I can put them together and start to figure out if I have something before I invest money, whether I have a little bit of money or I have a lot of money.”
Larry Jordan: Some amazing advice, Jessica, thank you. For people who want to learn more, where can they go on the web to keep track of what you and your company are doing?
Larry Jordan: And the website is 3pillarglobal.com. Jessica Hall is the Director of the Innovate Practice at 3Pillar Global and, Jessica, thanks for joining us today.
Jessica Hall: Thank you again so much for having me. It was a great conversation and really wonderful questions.
Larry Jordan: Nic Novicki is an actor, producer and comedian who’s been on Boardwalk Empire, Sopranos, Private Practice and many others, as well as producing shows for both broadcast and the web. Recently, he started the Disability Film Challenge to help film makers with disabilities further their careers in the entertainment industry. Hello, Nic.
Nic Novicki: Hey, how you doing? Thanks for having me on.
Larry Jordan: We are delighted to have you join us. What got you interested in working with film makers and disabilities?
Nic Novicki: Well, for myself, I’ve been in the entertainment industry since I was a kid and I’ve been an actor, a comedian, as you said, in all kinds of different projects and I rarely saw people with disabilities either in front of the camera or behind the camera. Basically, I want to do anything I can to try to tap into this under-utilized market.
Larry Jordan: You’ve been in front of the camera since the beginning of time. What made you add producing to your acting and comedy career?
Nic Novicki: Well, I wasn’t happy with the roles I was being offered. I think, being a little person – I’m three feet ten – there just wasn’t a wide variety of roles and I went to business school and I decided, you know what? I know enough people, let me just do my own projects. This way, I can do what I want as an actor, and then that sort of philosophy changed the path that the projects that I decided to do and it kind of led to a new career in producing.
Larry Jordan: So then, from producing, how do we get from that to the 48 Hour Disability Film Challenge?
Nic Novicki: Well, actually I directed and produced a short film this fall and that was just a personal project and I did it and in my head I said, “This is great.” It was part of a 48 hour film challenge, actually for the Producers’ Guild, and I said, you know, “The only reason why this person is played by a little person is because I happen to be a little person,” and I did it. I decided, “You know what? Let’s try to create incentives for people who work with people with disabilities,” so I decided to take a similar model that’s already been done in producing a short film of our weekend and decided that I’d made incentives so the winners will screen at the Chinese Theater, get mentored by executive producer of Curb Your Enthusiasm and New Girl, the writer of the upcoming Godzilla movie and casting director Pam Dixon, who has cast numerous huge projects.
Nic Novicki: So the idea was to create a new source of work for people with disabilities, because one in four people in the country have a disability and yet you never see anybody with a disability on screen. I think there’s a market that hasn’t been reached yet.
Mike Horton: The Screen Actors’ Guild, though, which I know you’re a member of, they have a committee or something that deals with actors with disabilities. Are they not doing the job that you think they should be doing?
Nic Novicki: I think they’re doing a good job but I think that, in order to change, people with disabilities themselves need to say, “Hey, I’m going to take my career into my own hands,” and I hope that the Disability Film Challenge is that starting block from which people can dive into the water and say, “I can start doing my own projects,” because no matter what, you as an actor, writer, producer, anything in the arts, you have to be motivated because this is a business and people that are running networks and studios really only care about making money, so if you can create something very good and it makes money, then now you’re in the game. But you have to start somewhere and so the idea from the Disability Film Challenge is to allow these people to have a reason and a deadline to create a project rather than just wanting or complaining or seeking something. They have the ability to put their career in their own hands.
Mike Horton: Oh, good for you, because I think this is an absolutely brilliant idea.
Larry Jordan: How do you overcome other people who say, “Well, you’re too short. You just can’t”?
Nic Novicki: Well, I think I’ve produced over 20 things and now, if that comes up, my track record speaks for itself. I’m very good at finding resources, people I’ve worked with, connecting them with other people that I’ve worked with and bringing something valuable to a project, so I think that if somebody’s going to try to say I’m not capable, ultimately you have to prove people wrong through action.
Mike Horton: Is there an apathy at all within the disabled community? Or do you find it difficult and challenging to get everybody together to change the…
Nic Novicki: Well, it’s a little difficult because there are so many different kinds of disabilities and some disabilities have more physical limitations than others, so each of them has their own set of problems and things they’re concerned about. But I think the one thing that everybody within the disability community could all agree on is that they’d like to see more exposure across the board of people with disabilities on TV shows, in commercials and in movies because the more people can see individuals with disabilities, the more comfortable they will be when they run into them at grocery stores, job interviews.
Mike Horton: Yes. We all know, though, that non-disabled actors win Academy Awards playing disabled people.
Nic Novicki: Sure. Yes. I mean, what can you do?
Mike Horton: I know. That’s the question, I guess.
Larry Jordan: Nick, who can enter and when’s the deadline?
Nic Novicki: The registration is open to anybody, anybody from all over the world. All you have to do is go into disabilityfilmchallenge.com and you can enter through our submission service, Withoutabox, and there’s a link on our website and it’s open to anybody. All you have to do is register by June 18th and the actual film challenge itself is June 20th to June 22nd.
Nic Novicki: On the morning of June 20th, everybody at the same time will get the topic of what the film will be and the specifications and everybody will have 48 hours to do the best film they can, write, shoot, edit and submit the film and they’re all due on the Sunday. It’s open to anybody and I strongly suggest you put your career in your own hands and get started with the Disability Film Challenge.
Mike Horton: Absolutely, no excuses.
Nic Novicki: And you don’t have to be disabled to enter the Disability Film Challenge. If you’re interested in doing this, because we do have some great prizes including Dell computers, we’ve been looking at Dell as a sponsor… friend in California with disabilities and the Media Access Awards. We’re giving Dell prizes and all these great mentorships and you’ll have your movie played at the Chinese Theater during Hollyshorts Film Festival and if you don’t have a disability, you can still enter. The film has to incorporate the theme of disability, so we strongly encourage casting somebody with a disability or working either in front of, below or above the line.
Larry Jordan: Nic, hold it, take a breath. What website can people go to to register?
Nic Novicki: They can go to the disabilityfilmchallange.com.
Larry Jordan: And the founder of the Disability Film Challenge is Nic Novicki and, Nic, thanks for joining us today.
Mike Horton: Next line, Nic.
Nic Novicki: Thank you.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: You know, one of the things I like about this show, Michael, is the diversity of guests that we’ve got.
Mike Horton: Good stuff tonight, Larry.
Larry Jordan: Cirina did a wonderful job.
Mike Horton: I know. Cirina, good job.
Larry Jordan: I was just thinking, in the two and half minutes we’ve got left before the show ends, tell us about Supermeet.
Mike Horton: Oh, Supermeet was awesome. There was probably about 1400 people there, I have no idea. All I know is that we had a hell of a lot of seats, they were all filled and there were a lot of people standing up and I know you were running around the vendor area. I got to see you for, like, two and a half seconds while I was going, “Where’s the food?”
Larry Jordan: I have a question. Put your Supermeet producer hat on.
Mike Horton: Sure.
Larry Jordan: What’s your goal in doing Supermeets, beside the fact that you like…
Mike Horton: I think we’ve talked about this a lot. The Supermeets are not about what is up on stage. It is about the gathering, it is about people coming together and getting out of the house and talking to each other and sharing each other’s problems and solving each other’s problems.
Mike Horton: The thing that we hope for more than anything is that you meet somebody that might change your life, that might get you a job or you can give them a job, that you can collaborate with. That’s what these Supermeets are all about. It is not what is up on stage and it’s not the raffle, even though a lot of people certainly turned up for the raffle because we gave away over $100,000 worth. It was $115,000 worth of stuff. It was just insane.
Larry Jordan: And 15 mouse pads.
Mike Horton: No, I didn’t give away mouse pads because I said your mouse pads would get lost in that, so I’m going to give that out at the… meeting next Wednesday.
Larry Jordan: That’s all right. What got you interested in doing Supermeets in the first place?
Mike Horton: You know, it sounds…
Larry Jordan: Couldn’t get regular work, huh?
Mike Horton: Yes. No, honestly, I really wanted to do an extension of what I do in the local area that… was. We wanted to bring this networking event to other places and we’ve been doing it now for, what, 13 years, Dan and I, and we’ve been doing it in places like Amsterdam and Boston and San Francisco and Los Angeles and London. Again, the whole idea is just to bring people together who have this like-minded need to tell stories.
Larry Jordan: Is it worth the work?
Mike Horton: Yes, if it works. If it doesn’t work, it’s six months of getting over it.
Larry Jordan: I have been on this side listening…
Mike Horton: I mean, what you do, my goodness, what you do on the show floor at NAB and these other places that you do it, it’s an enormous amount of work but if it works, it’s so rewarding.
Larry Jordan: It is. By the way, we did do a lot at NAB and if you haven’t had a chance, check out the Digital Production Buzz’s coverage of NAB at nabshowbuzz.com.
Mike Horton: Give me the number of interviews you did again.
Larry Jordan: We did 81.
Mike Horton: 81.
Larry Jordan: 81.
Mike Horton: Over four days?
Larry Jordan: Over three and a half days because the show ends early on Thursday.
Mike Horton: And did you actually do the how to wrap cables thing at the end of the show?
Larry Jordan: I did, I did.
Mike Horton: Did you tape that?
Larry Jordan: It was the Mike Horton Memorial Cable Rolling Contest.
Mike Horton: Oh my God, I would love to see that film. That would be huge. It would get a million views in two days.
Larry Jordan: We did five hours of live programming, two live shows a day, plus an hour evening wrap-up, all of which had different interviews. We had probably the most incredible team of production personnel…
Mike Horton: Yes, no fooling.
Larry Jordan: …I’ve ever worked with. We took 29 people and it was a machine. I’ve never been prouder.
Mike Horton: I know, you did a lot of audio interviews and video interviews.
Larry Jordan: With the cooperation of Moviola.
Mike Horton: Yes, with Moviola.
Larry Jordan: It was amazing.
Mike Horton: Yes, they were very impressed with you. “Larry’s so smart.”
Larry Jordan: Well, don’t disillusion them, would you?
Mike Horton: I heard a lot of good things about you. I was unfortunately in my hotel room the entire time putting out fires.
Larry Jordan: And the Supermeet, by the way, I had great fun. I love talking to the vendors at the vendor tables.
Mike Horton: Thank you for doing that.
Larry Jordan: It’s the best time because…
Mike Horton: I gave you $10 for doing that and you did it well.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests for today: Christina Lee Storm, the producer at Accelerated Entertainment, about her documentary on the death of Rhythm & Hues.
Mike Horton: She’s talented.
Larry Jordan: That was a great interview. Dirk Norris, the Founder and Executive Director of the New Mexico Film Foundation; Brad Stoddard, the President of the New Mexico Post Alliance.
Mike Horton: Love those guys.
Larry Jordan: Jessica Hall, the Director of the Innovate Practice at 3Pillar Global; and Nic Novicki, the Founder and Director of the Disability Film Challenge. There’s a lot happening at The Buzz…
Mike Horton: A lot of people trying to change the world out there, right? All on this show tonight.
Larry Jordan: And that’s a good thing.
Mike Horton: Yes. That was a really good show. People changing the world.
Larry Jordan: Because otherwise nothing changes. Our producer is Cirina Catania, our engineer is Adrian Price. On behalf of the voice at the other side of the studio booth, whose name is Mike Horton, my name is Larry Jordan and thanks for listening to the Digital Production Buzz.
Mike Horton: Goodbye, everybody.
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