Why?

I have been asked over that two years why I chose to put my screenwriting career on hold and embark on entering the film distribution arena and start a film festival.  The answer is not so simple.  I will try and lay it out to you without boring you to death.

Upon the Writer’s Guild Strike of 2007/2008 which lasted for 100 days several things happened that would change the course of my life.

First,   among the many proposals from both sides regarding the new contract, there were several key issues of contention but the one issue that really interested me was the compensation for “new media” content written for or distributed through emerging digital technology such as the Internet.

Even back then it was widely expected by industry observers that new media will eventually supplant both DVD in the home video market and television in the broadcasting market as the primary means for distribution.   Not having any real experience in technology or interest for that matter, this issue was intriguing.   I had been fortunate to work within the studio system for over a decade at that point and the projects I worked on were handled by the fat cat Hollywood suits.   I was collecting checks in my underwear with no real concern what happened after the script left my hands.   I sold original pitches, specs and was hired for rewrites and punch ups.  As long as the check cleared I was happy.  The idea of striking over something that didn’t involve me meant I better find out what’s up with this content New Media stuff and emerging platforms.

The second thing that happened during the strike was that the studios now had time on their hands to really go over their piles of scripts in development.   No longer mired in taking meeting or power lunches they had to figure out a way to fill their days.  And what they found out was that they spent too much money on guys like me in their underwear on projects that will never see the light of day.

Those 100 days changed Hollywood forever, not to mention my future.   They determined that they would be better served to just make huge event movies instead of 30 million dollar family comedies or sports films.   When Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney said, “I no longer get excited by a 30 million dollar film making 100 million if it doesn’t create an amusement park ride or a toy line”, I knew my career was in trouble.

When the strike ended and jobs became thin, several of my writer friends decided to take control over their own careers and venture into the world off independent filmmaking.  I was too lazy and never really wanted to direct so I just accepted my fate and opened a gym and taught screenwriting waiting for the cyclical nature of the industry to turn back into my favor.  Well, that never happened.

My friends who made their films all got frustrated with their distribution deals.   I was fascinated how these guys who have been working in Hollywood for decades still didn’t understand how distribution worked.  I decided to peek behind the curtain and ask some old acquisition friends how distribution really worked.

“It’s all about the library, baby.” said one distribution executive.   Distribution companies don’t really care about your film as much as building their library.  Another executive said, “Filmmakers don’t want to know the truth.  It’s expensive to release a film and recoupable costs are our bread and butter.  For every one dollar we spend putting a film out we will bill back 2 dollars to the production.  It’s legal and often times appropriate.”    Another acquisitions rep from a major buyer said it is part of their business model that the filmmaker must sue the company in order to see any project reports.

I was shocked by this information.  So unless your film becomes a worldwide phenomenon then you are unlikely to see anything other than a minimum guarantee.  I finally understood the old joke: What is the best way to become a millionaire in Hollywood?  You start out a billionaire.

So I decided I was going to do things differently.   I created a new distribution business model marrying the three entities of the film business:  Production, Distribution and Exhibition.   I won’t go into detail here about the specifics of this release strategy but I will say this concept was more satisfying then breaking a story beat in a script.

Now circling back to what I learned about the “New Media” during the strike.  Boom, I found my third act resolution.   You see, after I enthusiastically launched my distribution company, New Hollywood Entertainment, I was confronted with by what one distribution executive said about filmmakers not wanting to hear the truth.

I was out at festivals, meeting filmmakers and explaining how I was going to do things differently and what I got in return was dead air and blank stares.    I heard things like, “I don’t want things differently”, “I want the same release Juno got” or “I love the way Winter’s Bone got handled.”    Don’t get me wrong, I understand where these filmmakers were coming from.  It was just unrealistic and delusional.   They didn’t know what they didn’t know.   Hell, I want a Napoleon Dynamite release as well.   But those are the exceptions, not the rule.  And one thing I know about filmmakers is that they play by their own rules.  You almost have to in order to be crazy enough to embark on career in film.

We were able to acquire 4 films, but if I was going to change the landscape I had to open up my reach and get filmmaker’s attention.    With a dwindling bank account and small library I knew I had to do something drastic.   While sitting in a hotel room at a nameless film festival and thinking about the one term that killed my career “New Media on emerging platforms”, I had my M. Night Shayamalan moment when he decided Bruce Willis would be dead the whole time in “The Sixth Sense.”

So I decided to start an online film festival.  Believe it or not it has never been done before.  There are small shorts and docs online film festivals, and Tribeca dipped their toes in market, but not any to the scope that I envisioned.

I will approach filmmakers with the same full transparency as a distributor and produce a cutting edge digital platform for filmmakers to get discovered.   Hence, the birth of the NUHO ONLINE FILM FESTIVAL.

Well, there you have it.  That’s the why.  This endeavor is the hardest thing I have ever done.   As far as I am concerned looking back perhaps the strike was the best thing ever to happen to me.  Afterall, I can still sit in my underwear and work.

So please go to our site which launches next Feb. 7th and sign up.   This is it.  Hopefully the first of many festivals to follow.

FADE OUT:

Why? How 100 days changed my life.

I have been asked over that two years why I chose to put my screenwriting career on hold and embark on entering the film distribution arena and start a film festival.  The answer is not so simple.  I will try and lay it out to you without boring you to death.

Upon the Writer’s Guild Strike of 2007/2008 which lasted for 100 days several things happened that would change the course of my life.

239px-Writers_raise_signs_at_wga_rally

First,   among the many proposals from both sides regarding the new contract, there were several key issues of contention but the one issue that really interested me was the compensation for “new media” content written for or distributed through emerging digital technology such as the Internet.

Even back then it was widely expected by industry observers that new media will eventually supplant both DVD in the home video market and television in the broadcasting market as the primary means for distribution.   Not having any real experience in technology or interest for that matter, this issue was intriguing.   I had been fortunate to work within the studio system for over a decade at that point and the projects I worked on were handled by the fat cat Hollywood suites.   I was collecting checks in my underwear with no real concern what happened after the script left my hands.   I sold original pitches, specs and was hired for rewrites and punch ups.  As long as the check cleared I was happy.  The idea of striking over something that didn’t involve me meant I better find out what’s up with this content New Media stuff and emerging platforms.

Mr. 3000 Premier

Mr. 3000 Premier

The second thing that happened during the strike was that the studios now had time on their hands to really go over their piles of scripts in development.   No longer mired in taking meeting or power lunches they had to figure out a way to fill their days.  And what they found out was that they spent too much money on guys like me in their underwear on projects that will never see the light of day.

Those 100 days changed Hollywood forever, not to mention my future.   They determined that they would be better served to just make huge event movies instead of 30 million dollar family comedies or sports films.   When Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney said, “I no longer get excited by a 30 million dollar film making 100 million if it doesn’t create an amusement park ride or a toy line”, I knew my career was in trouble.

When the strike ended and jobs became thin, several of my writer friends decided to take control over their own careers and venture into the world off independent filmmaking.  I was too lazy and never really wanted to direct so I just accepted my fate and opened a gym and taught screenwriting waiting for the cyclical nature of the industry to turn back into my favor.  Well, that never happened.

My friends who made their films all got frustrated with their distribution deals.   I was fascinated how these guys who have been working in Hollywood for decades still didn’t understand how distribution worked.  I decided to peek behind the curtain and ask some old acquisition friends how distribution really worked.

“It’s all about the library, baby.” said one distribution executive.   Distribution companies don’t really care about your film as much as building their library.  Another executive said, “Filmmakers don’t want to know the truth.  It’s expensive to release a film and recoupable costs are our bread and butter.  For every one dollar we spend putting a film out we will bill back 2 dollars to the production.  It’s legal and often times appropriate.”    Another acquisitions rep from a major buyer said it is part of their business model that the filmmaker must sue the company in order to see any project reports.

I was shocked by this information.  So unless your film becomes a worldwide phenomenon then you are unlikely to see anything other than a minimum guarantee.  I finally understood the old joke: What is the best way to become a millionaire in Hollywood?  You start out a billionaire.

So I decided I was going to do things differently.   I created a new distribution business model marrying the three entities of the film business:  Production, Distribution and Exhibition.   I won’t go into detail here about the specifics of this release strategy but I will say this concept was more satisfying then breaking a story beat in a script.

Now circling back to what I learned about the “New Media” during the strike.  Boom, I found my third act resolution.   You see, after I enthusiastically launched my distribution company, New Hollywood Entertainment, I was confronted with by what one distribution executive said about filmmakers not wanting to hear the truth.

images festivals

I was out at festivals, meeting filmmakers and explaining how I was going to do things differently and what I got in return was dead air and blank stares.    I heard things like, “I don’t want things differently”, “I want the same release Juno got” or “I love the way Winter’s Bone got handled.”    Don’t get me wrong, I understand where these filmmakers were coming from.  It was just unrealistic and delusional.   They didn’t know what they didn’t know.   Hell, I want a Napoleon Dynamite release as well.   But those are the exceptions, not the rule.  And one thing I know about filmmakers is that they play by their own rules.  You almost have to in order to be crazy enough to embark on career in film.

We were able to acquire 4 films, but if I was going to change the landscape I had to open up my reach and get filmmaker’s attention.    With a dwindling bank account and small library I knew I had to do something drastic.   While sitting in a hotel room at a nameless film festival and thinking about the one term that killed my career “New Media on emerging platforms”, I had my M. Night Shayamalan moment when he decided Bruce Willis would be dead the whole time in “The Sixth Sense.”

So I decided to start an online film festival.  Believe it or not it has never been done before.  There are small shorts and docs online film festivals, and Tribeca dipped their toes in market, but not any to the scope that I envisioned.

I will approach filmmakers with the same full transparency as a distributor and produce a cutting edge digital platform for filmmakers to get discovered.   Hence, the birth of the NUHO ONLINE FILM FESTIVAL.

nuho_web_1

Well, there you have it.  That’s the why.  This endeavor is the hardest thing I have ever done.   As far as I am concerned looking back perhaps the strike was the best thing ever to happen to me.  Afterall, I can still sit in my underwear and work.

So please go to our site which launches next Feb. 7th and sign up.   This is it.  Hopefully the first of many festivals to follow.

FADE OUT:

The Home Stretch

Wow!  It’s been a crazy month.  We are about 10 days out from our launch and the Nuho online film festival is coming along very nicely.   This month we hosted a sold out showcase premier event of one of our festival films entitled “Coldwater”.  IMG_4994BloodyDisgusting.com was a sponsor for the event and it was held at the famed Crest Theater in Westwood, CA.   Along with the film we hosted an amazing panel with some real industry pros discussing the art of independent film in the horror space.

Coldwater Panel

The panelist were Adam Green, Darren Bousman, Luke Daniels and Adrienne Biddle.  Their wisdom and insight on navigating the world of independent film was just terrific.  A major theme of the discussion was managing your expectations and taking control over your our career.

Meanwhile back in the office our programmers finalized our film slate for the festival.   We didn’t just want to launch with titles that were not worthy of representing the quality we are looking for in a festival so we had a real challenging time selecting the final content.   Our slate is diverse.  We have horror, romantic comedy, broad comedy, animated, experimental, coming of age, gay themed, adult drama and faith-based.  Wow…that covers a lot.

As we were finalizing our slate and hosting a live event we also filmed several more roundtable discussions.   Be sure to tune in and watch these panels as they begin streaming on Feb. 7 and will run throughout the entire festival.

Survivors films panel As I was moderating these panels I found myself as equally fascinated as a typical filmmaker.   I promise you that you will not be disappointed when you watch these film panels.

Our Nuho team is amazing.   We simply want to provide an alternate solution to the mad cap world of film festivals.  It is our vision to generate exposure not only for the films we screen but for the filmmakers in order for them to continue on with their careers.

Stayed Tuned for a big announcement of a major keynote speaker.  We have had several inquiries from prominent industry professionals about helping us push the first festival out to the marketplace.

I must say this past month has lifted my spirits to a dimension I never thought in terms of accomplishing what we set out to accomplish.   People who I hold in the utmost respect have encouraged me by stating that our festival could change the way the film festivals operate and the prospects of success are endless.

My definition of success is simple.   Did the filmmakers have a good experience in seeing their content delivered in a quality fashion?  Did film viewers enjoy logging on and feel like they actually attended a film festival?

Coldwatereventphote

I know pleasing everybody is difficult.   But if there is one thing I learned from moderating these panels it’s that in order to succeed in the film industry you must first have the belief that success is built within.  I know what we created isn’t perfect but it’s headed in the right direction.  And that direction is bringing a red carpet right into your living room.

Love and Light my Friends!!!!

 

 

HAPPY NU YEAR!

Yes another year is over.  As I get older I realize that the days get longer but the years get shorter.  I ate my way through the holidays.  Is it bad when your mother- in- law says to you while eating your third piece of apple pan dowdy, “Season’s Eatings, son.”JerryPowellonesheet

The best gift I got this year was from my Programmers.  They found some amazing little indies that we will feature at our inaugural festival in Feb.  Thanks guys. (Check out the Photos I posted of some of the films)

There was no down time for us over the holidays.   We are ramping up quickly and will have our final slate of films locked in the next two weeks.    We are also doing a Showcase Premier event at the gorgeous Crest Theater in Westwood on Jan. 9th.   It is going to be a party.   We are screening the scary “Coldwater” and doing a horror film panel and a Q and A.  Many cool guest have already agreed to atttend.    Bloodydisgusting.com is moderating the panel.   My mom is so proud.  (sarcasm)Coldwater invite

I will say that something interesting hit me on New Years eve when I was spending some quiet time with family and friends in Manhattan Beach.  It’s about Content creation.  It isn’t just about watching a love story for the ages, or seeing a jaw clenching car chase scene or screening a heartwrenching drama.   It’s about fun.  I get making content is hard work.  I am the king of complaints quickly get wrapped around the axel of life.   But I have managed to surround myself with people who quickly put me back in line.  And on New Years Eve, that person was my 12  year old daughter.

My daughter pointed out to me that if you can’t have fun creating something then how can you expect people to enjoy watching something you have created.3 References one sheet

So my advice for starting the New Year is that you surround yourself with people who lift you up and speak in truth.   Hollywood will let you down, but these people never will.  So
thank you my sweet Chloe, and boy did I have fun creating you!

LOVE, LAUGH AND DREAM!!!!!

Fat Boy….Out

Keith Mitchell

Just Do It

Roundtable Discussion with Producers and Directors

Producers Panel 2

Just do it.   That was the theme of our great filmmaker’s panel we shot the other night at Jump Cut Café.   In attendance were Richard Zelniker, Jesse Kove and Chris Montes (Mischief Night), Jeremy Cloe (Liars, Fires and Bears) Steven Kung and Jon Michael Kondrath (A Leading Man), Ian and Eshom Nelms (Lost on Purpose), Nick Loritish (Born and Raised) Bruce Gillies (Don Jon).

The spirit of indie filmmaking filled the room with enthusiasm and excitement.  It was very contagious.   The one thing I realized when sitting with this group was that if you are ever in a rut about the industry or mired in discontent of the state of filmmaking, sit around a group of filmmakers who just finished their project and listen.   If you truly want to make films then I promise you that

Of course we discussed everything from distribution to craft service.   What was very obvious was that in order to succeed in the indie world you must know a little bit about a lot.   Kondrath said it best when he said you can’t assume the people you hired will do their job effectively.   And how would you know if they weren’t, if you didn’t know how to do their job.

Zelniker’s insight into filmmaking was wonderful.  He said his career has been filled with false starts.  He knew if he was going to continue sitting around waiting for other people to say yes, then he was just saying no to his career.   Afterall, its filmmaking, not filmwaitiing.

Telling a story is easy.  Telling a story visually is difficult.   To understand what goes into filmmaking one must first embrace the marriage between words and images.  The bridge between these words and images is the director.

Producers Panel

I am often flummoxed by the notion that a film is an actor’s medium.  While they are certainly important, it is a director’s medium.   Gillies said that the director should be the dumbest guy on the set.  Surround yourself with people much smarter than you and the director’s job becomes much easier.

When asked what a producer does on an indie set it became clear to me that the answer was, “whatever he is asked to do.”   There is no job too big or issue too small that a producer must deal with.

Loritsh explained that his objective was to just get it done by any means necessary.  And that they did.   These guys just did it!

That has been our attitude at NUHO.   We understand that what we are creating is something new and original.   Some people don’t want or understand why we are even trying an online festival.   They are married to the old ways of doing business and that is fine.   I wonder if Redford was faced with the same amount of confusion when he said he wanted to host a festival in the mountains of Utah.

Producers Panel 1

Either way the process of launching something like this has allowed me to meet and talk to such wonderful fans of cinema like those on our panels.   You can watch the panels in their entirety during our upcoming festival in February.

Festibution

Screenwriter Panel DiscussionBy Keith Mitchell, NuHo Executive Director

Well, here you go.   This is my first blog post about how we are doing as a festival.    And let me tell you it is like drinking water from a fire hydrant at times.   This is by far the most challenging project I have ever worked on.   And believe me, I have worked for some pretty challenging producers and studios.   We have a great team working around the clock to pull off our inaugural festival and I really can’t say enough how much I appreciate them.

The biggest challenge thus far has be reeducating the film community about how our online festival will help them and not harm them.   There is a psychological element that if a film plays online for the world to see then somehow it will harm the value of the title.    Now think about that for a minute.   Exposure worldwide will hurt a film?   That’s like saying I just want to be a little pregnant.

But it’s not their fault, they don’t know what they don’t know.   And trust me I don’t know a lot.  But if you are brave enough and have the guts to go out and make a feature film shouldn’t you have the guts to try a new platform for exposure? This online festival was born out of all the negative comments I heard from other filmmakers about their festival experiences.   I am not a festival hater at all.  In fact, I love attending many of them.   It’s a great way to meet people and share war stories.   But we live in an age of entreprenurial filmmaking.   It isn’t just about making a film.  It’s about making a living.   And if you want to survive you better damn well learn how to think outside the box.

Technology has created a subculture of wanna be filmmakers who think just because they like watching films they can make them.  I can literally make a feature film from my iPAD now. Becasuse of this tech boom, the market is flooded with content.   So if you want to get noticed, do something original.

By the way, that just doesn’t apply to filmmakers.   As a distribution company, we realized that we had to try something different to survive. As a screenwriter I remember marinating on ideas and not really motivated to flesh anything out until a title, a set peice, a character really jumped out at me.   In the case of our festival, it began with a word.   The word was FESTIBUTION.   I remember sitting in a coffee shop reading about how my Detroit Lions sucked and it just came to me.

If “selfie” can make it in the dictionary then my one goal with our festival is to get “festibution” in the dictionary.   I guess that isn’t my only goal.   I want filmmakers to embrace our vision and look at what we are offering as a real opportunity to get discovered. Well that does it for my first blog.  Stay tuned for my next blog post about our wonderful panel we shot with some major Hollywood screenwriters. (See Photo)  Boy was that fun.

In closing I will leave you with these great words of wisdom from the great Frank Capra,   “There are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness.”