March 2008

Download This: The Future of Distribution is Just a Click Away

A selection of internet distribution venues --,,, and

"Prarambha (The Beginning)" is one of the films you can watch at Jaman.

If Hollywood is slow to make the leap online, independents are even more hesitant, fearing the gradual (or dramatic) shaving of their profit margins, which are low to begin with. What is the future of Internet film distribution? The Independent's Michele Meek takes a look the upstarts who are changing the way the distribution game is played, including Movieflix, EZTakes, Jaman, FilmOn, and, yes, Google Video.

Video blogs, vodcasts, YouTube -- in many ways it seems that independent filmmakers have taken the internet by force.  But what about independent films picked up for distribution?  In many cases, they are notably missing from the online arena.  Companies like Zipporah Films, Women Make Movies and Davidson Films still stick with their tried-and-true model of

The DVD Isn't Dead... At Least Not Yet

Patrick Kwiatkowski, CEO of indie distributor Microcinema, makes a case for DVDs

A still from "Banana Switcheroo" from the Microcinema DVD compilation "Stash 28".

The future of film distribution is all about downloading, and the DVD is poised for extinction, right? Not so fast says Patrick Kwiatkowski, the founder of Microcinema, a company that distributes independent features and shorts. He notes that independent filmmakers always struggle to make money, but that they have a better chance of making a few bucks from DVD sales than they do from downloads. Kwiatkowski recently spoke with The Independent's Erin Trahan, for Part 2 in our special report on independent-film distribution.

With a call for shorts for Independent Exposure 2008 open through the end of the month, The Independent wanted to talk strictly shorts with Microcinema’s founder, Patrick Kwiatkowski.

Letter to a Filmmaker Seeking Distribution

Advice on film distribution from Cynthia Close, executive director of Documentary Educational Resources

Cynthia Close (left), executive director of Documentary Educational Resources, and filmmaker Nina Hasin.

So you want to get distribution for your film? In a letter to filmmakers seeking distribution, Cynthia Close, the executive director of Documentary Educational Resources, offers tips on how—and how not—to approach distributors. Close's company has a focus on international fare and often picks up films at festivals in places such as Brazil, Toronto, and Beijing. According to Close, you should do due dilligence on the company you're approaching. Make sure you label your DVD properly. And do you really have to have an agent? Part 3 of our special report on independent film distribution.

Dear Filmmaker, I just got off the phone after talking to you. You had called our company asking to speak to someone about our potential interest in distributing your film. When I asked you if you had visited our website, you seemed slightly confused and said no, but that you had a few questions for me anyway.

The Doc Doctor's Anatomy of a Film: "I Was a Teenage Feminist"

Therese Shechter talks about where the idea—and the money—came from, for this very personal, irreverent film

The Filmmaker's Mystique: Therese Shechter of "I Was a Teenage Feminist"

The Independent's Fernanda Rossi looks at Therese Shechter's film I Was a Teenage Feminist (watch the trailer), which has screened at more than 50 festivals worldwide. The filmmaker assembled an impressive advisory board to help her make the film. And she financed a portion of the post-production with money raised from a Canadian television network — but only after a true stroke of luck. Attention New York Filmmakers: The Doc Doctor is bringing her signature workshops on story structure and trailer mechanics to New York City on April 12 and 19. For more information, go to

About this new column: Many filmmakers ponder in anguish, How do other people—celebrated people—do it? Am I taking too long to make this documentary? Does everybody spend as much money as I am spending, or am I spending too little? And when filmmakers share their lessons learned in interviews in the glossy trade magazines, their tales seem to follow the arc of otherworldy heroes rather than real documentary makers, i.e. human beings like you and me. So each month, the Doc Doctor will go out into the world (this real world) of filmmakers who are successful and find out how they made it. The "Anatomy of a Film Column" is a chance to learn from filmmakers' hits and misses in real life examples. —Fernanda Rossi, story consultant a.k.a. the Documentary Doctor

Alex Karpovsky's "Woodpecker": The Perfect "Ficumentary"?

Filmmaker Alex Karpovsky marries documentary and narrative to create a whole new genre of filmmaking

Extreme birdwatching may require feathers, as shown in Alex Karpovsky's <i>Woodpecker</i>.

Alex Karpovsky's breakthrough 2006 film, The Hole Story, was part spoof, part dark comedy, part personal documentary. In it, a character, played by and named Alex Karpovsky, tries to solve the mystery of a hole opening in an otherwise frozen lake. In his sophomore effort, Woodpecker, premiering this month at SXSW, fact and fiction intermingle like snow and ice in a winter storm. This time the setting is swampy Arkansas, and the mystery revolves around rare birds. Karpovsky doesn't appear on the screen this time, but the muddling of reality and fiction is just as potent.

Filmmaker Alex Karpovsky is sure to leave reviewers scrambling for a dictionary in an attempt to define the hybrid genre of his latest film, Woodpecker.

"Prince Among Slaves": Recreating History on a Budget

Director Andrea Kalin talks about making a film set in the 18th Century and on two continents

Hard to Cast: Marcus Mitchell stars in "Prince Among Slaves," which aired recently on PBS.

Directors Andrea Kalin and Bill Duke certainly had their work cut out for them when they teamed up to film Prince Among Slaves (watch the trailer), a film that aired recently on PBS. The film tells the story of Abdul Rahman Ibrihima, a Muslim prince who was captured by slave traders in Africa, and sold to the owner of a Mississippi plantation. Recreating the story involved scouting locations, casting the prince, renting a schooner, and scrupulously researching the historical record. Kalin discusses the making of the film with The Independent's Mike Hofman.

Prince Among Slaves, which aired in February on PBS as part of public television's Black History Month programming, is the story of Abdul Rahman Ibrahima, an African prince who was captured by slave traders in 1788. He completed the Middle Passage in shackles, and ended up sold to a farmer of modest means in Natchez, Mississippi.

The Trailer for "Dreams with Sharp Teeth"

A documentary screened at SXSW 2008


A documentary screened at SXSW 2008

The Trailer for "Goliath"

A film screened at SXSW 2008


A film screened at SXSW 2008

The Trailer for "Crawford"

A documentary screened at SXSW 2008


A documentary screened at SXSW 2008

The Trailer for "Second Skin"

A documentary screened at SXSW 2008


A documentary screened at SXSW 2008

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