Monday, December 17, 2012


Deutsch LA’s Trevor O’Brien
During this year’s Forum, we held our inaugural Movie Hackathon. Sponsored by the visionary folks at ZEFR and Fast Co.Create, it was 41 hours of non-stop coding and attracted developers from all over the Los Angeles area.
Deutsch LA, an advertising and marketing powerhouse with offices across the globe, sent two teams; their Deutsch JV team took home first place and a cash prize of $2500 with their mobile app Pop Over, recently featured in Fast Co.Create. One week later, the Deutsch LA Team took the apps they spec’d out during this non-stop coding marathon and pitched them to the delight of their clients at Pop Secret.
The result? Pop Secret Labs, the newly launched hub for Pop Secret “kernels” — a variety of apps and media partnerships to be released throughout 2013, all meant to make movie watching at home more fun. A sorely needed quality, judging from a recent New York Times article about the declining cultural relevance of movies.
I had an opportunity to chat about this changing state of cinema with Deutsch LA’s Executive Creative Technical Director, Trevor O’Brien ( @trevorobrien). O’Brien shares his thoughts on what he’s seen working in Los Angeles, bringing an outsider’s perspective of LA’s burgeoning tech scene that is insightful, thoughtful and considered, characterized by the speech patterns of a fiercely creative individual who is totally engaged in what he or she is doing in the moment.

Showbiz: Eyes Wide Shut to the Internet Revolution

“I’ve been in Los Angeles for 14 months. Since I’ve come here, I’ve been more involved in the start up community,” O’Brien says. “We have Silicon Beach, we have some really great incubators that have cropped up here, and there are some really amazing start ups that have popped up around Santa Moncia and Venice. I go to some really great meet ups all around here, but I haven’t seen many of the movie companies at these events. Why don’t movie studios have a strategy around investing in start ups?”
Our conversation moves toward thoughts on how he would characterize the movie business’ relationship to technology, and how the tone in the movie business is very similar to the motion picture’s leaner cousin, the music industry.
“You mention the music industry, and it’s a very mature, elder industry, and I feel it’s had its eyes closed for a bit while the internet revolution is going on. Their business models are not set up to leverage it. It blows my mind.”
We both agree: there is a general fear of the internet from both the movie and music industries that has impacted how digital marketing and technology has been implemented in the marketing of movies.
“Looking at how we use digital tools to help our clients, we’ve completely moved away from micro-sites and display ads. Instead, we’re tapping into social communities where the audiences already are, trying to get a community to do something and in turn giving something back. When I look at how movie studios promote their movies, I feel they go to a very templatized structure and hope the audiences interact with something. No one goes to micro-sites to interact with brands.”

Kickstarting a Crowdfunding Shake-Up with Lemonade: Detroit

“When you think about what’s happening on Kickstarter, it’s amazing to me. Lemonade: Detroit was the first version of a crowdsourced movie before Kickstarter [really gained momentum]. I bought a frame or four frames 18 months ago. Basically, they’re asking the crowd to help fund their movie; for a dollar you get a producer credit on IMDB, and for a $100 you get an executive producer credit. But 18 months ago you weren’t seeing anyone do this… we’re actually going to ask people to fund and help us fund our movie.
“I’ve never read about Lemonade: Detroit in the press, it never really blew up, but I think it’s such an interesting model. They’re filmmakers, but they’ve also evolved their marketing model. At first, you could buy 1 or 24 frames, then they modified it and added this model of ‘giving a gift.’ It’s one of the big differences between film and digital. Film is kind of locked: you go out, you put it on a tape and its done. Digital isn’t ever done, you put it out and things change and live and breathe. At some point, film and digital are going to converge and film is going to live and breathe.”

Indie Film: Get Ready for a Digital Disruption

When asked about independent film’s role in this moment of disruption, O’Brien continues:
“Indie filmmakers have to be much more agile with how they spend their money and how they market things, and even how they shoot things. To bring those two things together would be incredibly interesting.
“We use two terms – we have our traditional creatives and our digital creatives. The advertising industry for a long time had those two sets in two offices. Now we just have creatives – you have creative coders sitting next to writers and you have this convergence of really different business lenses. When you put them together it starts to get really, really interesting.
“I also look at the marketing side of things — you look at how an independent film uses its marketing budget, and you know it doesn’t have the marketing budget of Batman that you can blanket every bus board, television and billboard. When you’re an independent, the best way to connect with audiences is to build things that are useful and enhance your audiences’ every day life and push it back to your film.
“There are probably considerable similarities in the disruption that has happened in the film industry and music industry. Take Kaiser Chiefs, a band in the UK. They did something really interesting to launch their last album, its all about tapping into the community: they put [sixteen] songs up on the internet and as a user you could create your own album of ten of those songs, and you could go pick Trevor’s album, you could even design your own cover, share it with your friends and invite your friends to buy it, and Kaiser Chiefs would get their cut, and I would get a cut.”

Digital Storytelling for a Connected Generation

“How do you think independent filmmakers could better leverage emerging technology to create new stories and build audiences for their work?” I ask.
He responds slowly.
“There’s a decline of people going to the movies every year. When you contrast that with people watching video, the growth of people watching content online has outstripped any other form of online content. One of the strategies that we have for a client is to make a more social experience for those watching at home online. Digital is not a channel, you shouldn’t think of digital as a channel; it’s a layer. It’s a layer on top of everything. It’s not, lean back and I’m going to show you what I want to show you, it’s the user deciding what it wants to watch.”
“If you think about the generation that’s coming up behind us that’s connected to the internet 24/7, that’s a huge disruption for a business that is based on asking people to go to a physical place to watch a movie. The Hackathon was great – bringing people together to hack around those industries. That’s a great way to connect the next generation of business owners and inventors with each other – smart people that realize we need those people involved in our business to create the future of our industry.”
He pauses a moment and the energy returns.
“What would happen if you added a bunch of nerds together coming together with filmmakers? What would happen? That could be a really interesting way to spend 41 more hours. I think there’s a lot on the film side that I’d be super interested in knowing about, how stuff gets done. Once that happens some really interesting things could develop.”
–by Nicholas Jayanty (@ideahed), Development Manager / originally published on on Dec. 6, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

More to come on Plan Bs, Cs, and Ds

Gotta love the blogosphere...

One of the most constructive ways to let off some steam. I'm going to take the next few days and think up some interesting stories/examples and more to at least provide some insight on what I've seen, and experienced self releasing two movies, one highly touted with a buzzy cast, the other, a critical darling that has had to scrap and scrape to reach its audience one step at a time.

I hope it's useful to someone :)

Forget A Festival Deadline

Time and time again, I see my fellow filmmakers rushing to meet some Festival deadline. What happens usually is we submit a rough cut and the film gets rejected. What makes filmmakers so special is we all think we are the exception to the rule. The irony of that statement is that mind set essentially makes us the rule.

To the indie film community. I'm begging you. If you're a first time filmmaker with no track record of success please please please please please tame your eagerness and wait until you have completed your film to show it to anyone. As much as programmers and sales agents and distributors say 'we've watched rough cuts before.' Don't listen. It's their job to cull what doesn't fit for their brands and their programs, and they are not here to give us the benefit of the doubt, they are in place to curate, to make judgements based on what they see.

Most of them (programmers, sales agents, distributors) are a wonderful, well intentioned group of people, but a rough cut is exactly that, rough, and it is the onus of the producer and the filmmakers to pump the brakes. They are not in the business of giving you the benefit of the doubt. They are not in the business of using their imagination to see what your film could be. They are in the business of judging. Period.

So stop rushing to meet festival deadlines to submit incomplete work. Be patient. Disciplined. If you miss a Festival deadline, that's fine. There are many more festivals to come, and they happen like clock work every year, so sit on the film, unless you have some one putting a gun to your head...and then I'd suggest using every ounce of diplomacy and reason to explain to them to take their finger off the trigger and be patient too.

And if you're trying to sell your film at a Festival make sure you have a plan B, C, and D to recoup your investment. The only Festival where sales happen overnight are Sundance, Berlin, Toronto, Los Angeles Film Festival Cannes, Tribeca, and sometimes SXSW. If you're not premiering at one of these and wish to sell your film...wait until you get rejected by all of them to consider playing anything else. And for most of us in the current marketplace, the dream of a Festival sale is exactly that...a dream. One that was sold to us in the mid's a new day, a new market and the plan Bs, Cs and Ds are the ones I've seen actually bring a filmmaker a greater degree of control, happiness and success with their film's release.

Determine if you're playing poker to create intrigue when it comes times to go to market or determine if you are playing a game of 52 card pick up to build an audience well before you identify your Premiere date...and STICK TO THE STRATEGY!

My favorite 52 card pick up strategy to date -

I've seen too many films struggle to recoup waffling on these key points, and I've seen too many films stumble by rushing to meet a festival deadline...


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Banner Ads - The Invisible Impression

To all my friends on the internets at events...I have a question...

How many digital banners have you ever clicked? The only ones I have clicked are by accident. I keep wracking my brain on ways to redefine the banner ad...what if it was a player that played content...what if it was an ad that I put my email into and got free content....

The unfortunate impotence of the banner ad these days when the consumer is bombarded by them grows and grows...just talk to the magazine industry, which has now evolved into a party promoting industry....

Magazines, like all media outlets survive on great content...yet somehow that content is expected to be funded through banner ads and subscriptions...

To all the digital marketers in the's time to reinvent the banner ad. To all the print advertisers in the house my favorite new invention is the ability to snap a photo of a QRC code to enter a new realm of experience, or Augmented Reality - which had better be totally cool if you're going to compel me to download a new app to experience it.

As a New York Times, Netflix, Wired, Fast Company subscriber, I'll happily pay to consume their content because its incredible, but the ads are something I whiz by in a blur, unless I get something free or access to something I wouldn't necessarily get to experience from engaging with them - think Mortal Kombat's Easter Eggs...

I heard that the local editorial division of the Onion was shut down in Austin, but they kept the ad sales division open to sell more adverts that are untrackable in print after being purchased by the Chicago Tribune. Has the Tribune been living in a vacuum?

In the sales driven world of recession marketing, ROI is king, and being able to quantify the value of a marketing dollar is paramount...that's why the world of events are struggling along side the world of print and banner advertising to get the formerly high price point they used to fetch as potential advertisers get more and more scrutinous how their budgets are being spent.

Then on to the world of Event Marketing. If I could replace every banner with a well designed kiosk that allowed me to play a game, download free content, post a cool photo of your truly, or interact in some way, I may be up to engage...but banners hanging in the halls just make my eyes blur and my brain shut down.

As social media marketing budgets continue to take up more and more of a marketers budgets, the reasons are obvious.

Events riding on the 'influencer' element can only be tracked by an email RSVP with some sophisticiated back end that gives demographic information by piping in via Facebook, but no one can tell if that influencer actually showed...

Social media allows marketers and audiences alike to track the level of engagement that a marketing message has in real time - ie tweets, likes, votes, and shares are the contemporary currency of the day.

I get that banner ads let us know when a product is in the marketplace, so they do pass on a key piece of sales info...but banners to drive general awareness? Can you call that strategy?

Quantifiable results are the obvious way forward, so why do I keep seeing banner ads at the parties I go to, the sites I visit, and the billboards I drive by?

Oh, another robot is coming soon to a theater near me...guess I'll netflix queue after I read the editorial coverage and six of my peers tell me its awesome, unless rewatching Breaking Bad gets to me first.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Lala Goes Bye Bye May 31st

One of my favorite places to spend my time is going bye bye thanks to Apple's purchase of LALA. The word on the street is Apple snapped them up because of their engineering staff's amazing accomplishment: creating a shared music experience that leverages the cloud so deftly.

Now those engineers are finding ways to improve Itunes i hope, perhaps they will just gut LALA's features and put them in to Itunes...which could be cool, or could be another disappointment like the Iphone's relationship with the worst cell carrier AT&T.

I made you all a playlist, and will continue to put them out, in the hopes that LaLa's site traffic increases more as they get closer to shut down.

My Bye Bye Lala Playlist 1 - All Bill Baird, All The Time.

But I guess look on the bright side...never mind, I don't think there is a bright one. LALA R.I.P.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Check out a recent interview with the ideahed featured by the McCombs Business School at the University of Texas.

Thanks to Kris Maxwell & McCombs Business School at the University of Texas for their in depth exploration of the Film Business, its nuance, its challenges, and its future! Thrilled to participate! Some amazing interviews from Tim League of the Alamo Drafthouse, Gary Hoover, the entrepreneur behind Bookstop, and, and VP of Distribution Channel Strategy for Disney, Jason Brenek.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Humble Pie

Sometimes you eat tastes like robitussin.