Indie Film’s Not Dead, It Just Needed a (Social) Kick in the Ass

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When it came time to bring his passion project to the screen, indie film maker Dom Portalla wasn’t counting on a venture capitalist to swoop in and save the day. Instead, he turned to the crowdfunding platform IndieGogo to turn his latest vision into reality — an approach a large number of  independent directors are now taking.

I caught up with Dom to discuss his upcoming film “Nicky,” the role of social media in independent film and the the most rewarding aspects of his profession.

Name, rank and why we should care?
Dom Portalla — writer, director, cinematographer and editor for Door Eleven Productions. Fans of independent film should care because we at Door Eleven are fully committed to delivering the most interesting low-budget cinema to the Greater Boston area.

Dom Portalla of Door Eleven Productions

Can you tell us about your latest project, “Nicky?”
“Nicky” has been a passion project of mine and Ken Flott’s (actor/co-writer/producer) for the past several years.

Ken had been writing “Nicky” as a short story and posting it in increments on Myspace while we were making our first film, “Duality”, back in 2006. He came across an image on FoundMagazine.com of a little boy wearing a tuxedo and standing outside of a women’s restroom. Don’t ask me how, but from the image, he immediately formulated a story of a man who lost his little brother in a kidnapping who was never able to get over it.

What really drew me to the story was the profound sense of sadness in the narration. We’ve all had terrible events happen in our lives which cause us to grieve, but one day you wake up and it’s just an idle Tuesday at the office – life goes on. For “Nicky’s” main character, though, this didn’t happen — his entire world sort of ended the day his brother disappeared and he seemingly became disconnected from everything but his own sense of guilt.

I’d find myself checking online more and more frequently to see what new chapters had been posted and even giving Ken the third degree on set to try and find out in advance what would happen next or what left turns the story would take. Years later, I took a stab at restructuring and adapting it as a short film and here we are.

Above: The image that inspired Portalla's upcoming film, "Nicky." Portalla developed a full-scale "crowdfunding" campaign which included a personalized video pitch from his production team as well as test-footage from the film.

Since starting your career in film, what role has social media played in bringing your art and ideas to life?
Social media has provided me the opportunity to connect with those seeking an alternative to mainstream cinema.  It has helped us develop and foster an audience which is crucial when you’re an obscure name in the process of establishing your niche.

It has been particularly useful at this stage in my career when seeking financing. Crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo allow filmmakers to independently raise funds by making a pitch and offering incentives to encourage donations. It is also a great way to include people in the process by involving them on the ground floor.

One thing I’ve always believed is that when it comes to the arts, particularly film, you vote with your wallet. That is why I have upwards of 1,000 DVDs as opposed to a crowded hard drive full of pirated flicks. I feel compelled to put my money where my mouth is. In the same breath, it’s also why I usually refuse to take my lady to see an obviously crappy romantic comedy in a theater. I know if I slap down that $20, they’ll make another equally abysmal film just like it next year and I’d rather not encourage that. Crowdfunding and social media invites everyone to be a part of the system. Don’t like what we’re selling? No harm, no foul. But if you see potential, you have the power to turn a pitch into a reality.

IndieGoGo.com

How do you see social technology shaping the future of the independent film community?
I think we are only beginning to see the tip of the iceberg with some of the things guys like Edward Burns and Kevin Smith have been doing. They’ve both recently made modestly budgeted films that became profitable without receiving real theatrical distribution or traditional promotion because they have tapped into a “direct-to-fan” market via social media. The same can even be said with dozens of different recording artists who are able to record and distribute their own music on their own terms without a record label fat-fingering its way into the creative process. Social technology allows us to cut out the middleman.

Now, with Edward Burns and Kevin Smith — one must realize these two already enjoy the luxury of an established audience who will follow them wherever they go. As 90s indie film superstars with tons of Facebook and Twitter followers,  it’s not as difficult to get the word out and create exposure for their projects. However, that is not to say that someone who creates compelling and innovative work can’t rise up from total obscurity and be the next big thing. That ability is purely due to social media.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of the career path you have chosen?
Aside from the opportunity to collaborate with some exceptionally talented people and the friendships that I’ve made, watching my films play to a live audience is probably the most rewarding aspect of what I do.

Our last feature, “The Darkness Within”, was picked up by several festivals and I had the opportunity to see it play in different parts of the country which was an amazing thing for me. As a filmmaker, what you want more than anything is for people to see your work, otherwise you’re just working in a vacuum. Making movies with the potential to find viewership is what makes all the hard work worth it and it keeps me motivated to keep doing what I do.

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9 New Media/PR Lessons from the Experts at Boston University

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I recently had the pleasure of sitting in on a Boston University College of Communication course titled, “New Media and Public Relations.”

Taught by the PR veteran/thought leader/dragon slayer, Todd Van Hoosear, the 300-level course aims to explore the effects of new media on the fundamental theories, models and practices of public relations. It also covers and uses the interactive tools that are currently redefining the practice of public relations.

Below, I’ve shared nine key take-aways from my audit of the course. These — along with several others — were shared during my live-Tweeting of the lecture. I think even the most seasoned professional can pick up something new, here:

  1. Filter bubbles = dangerous. Our info is being filtered by our friends as well as Google and FB. | #BUNewMedia
  2. Key elements of a successful viral video: brevity, humor and appealing subject matter. | #BUNewMedia
  3. You can’t guarantee a viral video. But, you can maximize its likelihood. | #BUNewMedia
  4. Videos are filmed with 1st, 2nd and 3rd screens in mind — TV, computer and mobile screen. | #BUNewMedia
  5. Pinterest and copyrighting – major concerns emerging as businesses incorporate service into marketing strategy. | #BUNewMedia
  6. Blog comment activity has plummeted in last two years. Convo has moved to social media platforms — where it’s owned by FB, etc. #BUNewMedia
  7. Blogs — really referred to as websites and news sites these days. “Blog” now really refers to content management systems. | #BUNewMedia
  8. Facebook “Like-gating” proven to be a negative engagement tactic. | #BUNewMedia
  9. PR is about telling stories. New official definition [from PRSA] does not get an A+. | #BUNewMedia

NewMedia_NicholasGPorter.com_NoahWardrip-Fruin_2012

Note: Some Tweets listed above were slightly altered from their original form for the purpose of this blog post.

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Advice from the Pros: Four Key Tips for Pitching Bloggers

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I love networking events. As a PR pro, why wouldn’t I? : )

Last night I attended The Publicity Club of New England’sBlogger Relations for PR Pros” panel at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. It was a blast.

The panel was made up of a diverse group of individuals with varied backgrounds.   Some valuable advice was shared. Below are a few of my favorite nuggets from the night. Enjoy!

  • Only use embargoes as a Trojan to get coverage – then tell your client you’re brilliant” – Jason Keith, SMB blogger, Boston.com

 

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Social Media and Pizza: A Case Study

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I live and work in downtown Boston, MA. When it’s time for lunch, I have many options. Today, I wanted to try a new place. I wandered down Newbury Street and decided to check out Bostone Pizza.

Bostone Pizza claims that they are Boston’s “only authentic NY pizzeria, featuring thin crust Neapolitan and deep dish Sicilian pizza.”

I tend to like my pizza covered with the most outrageous toppings you can think of.  I also love it prepared in a variety of ways. For this reason, Bostone caught my attention. But when it’s my first time in a joint? I opt for a straight slice of cheese. That’s just how I roll.

Well, the slice did not disappoint. But you must remember that there are tons of lunchtime options around here. Newbury Street alone offers everything from Indian/Chinese fusion to Spanish tapas. How can a pizza parlor compete?

I think Bostone is going to be just fine.

While dining, I checked in on Foursquare. I also chose to share my location on Twitter. Within an hour, Bostone sought me out and recognized my patronage. Trust me; this sort of thing makes a difference. I think that many of Boston’s plugged-in professionals and undergraduates would agree.  

The next time I’m looking for lunch in downtown, I think I’ll try Bostone’s Mediterranean with extra feta.

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How to Use Social Media in Your Job Hunt

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I know plenty of folks who are looking for a job, yet refuse to join social networking sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. It’s as if they are trying to prove something. The only thing they are proving is that they don’t understand how the rules have changed. Here are a few tips on how to use social media to find the job you deserve.

Make Your Debut

Whether you are an established professional or a graduate looking to catch a break, you must take the appropriate steps to establish your online identity. Start a blog that focuses on your professional interests and then create accounts on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to promote your endeavor. 

Employers are not going to seek you out. You must make sure your voice is heard loud and clear.

Share the Right Information

When using Twitter to aid your job-hunt, you must be somewhat strategic. What sort of information are you sharing? If you are not reading and re-tweeting articles that cover topics relevant to your field, you are not doing all you can to brand yourself online. That account executive at XYZ PR is not going to notice you if you are solely tweeting about Cheetos and Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. Well, that would probably catch my attention, but I’ll save that for another blog entry…

Go Against the Grain

Do you have an opinion? Do not be afraid to share it! Let’s face it, the social media landscape is filled with @-kissers who love to offer groundbreaking comments like “great post!” on all the hottest blogs. The folks who stand out are those who respectfully voice differing opinions and engage others in conversation.

Pull the Trigger

So you’ve built your online presence and traded messages with a few established professionals. Now what? Pull the trigger!

Ask your new contacts if they would be willing to sit down for an informational interview. This is an excellent way to learn more about your industry and put yourself in front of the people who matter the most.

Think you are done? Not by a long shot!  Ask your social media contacts if you can contribute to their blog as a guest. Start a Twitter-Chat or organize a Tweet-Up. Ask everyone for referrals. Above all else, stay relevant!

Do you have a success story you are willing to share?

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How the iPhone has Changed My Life

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I’m a bit late to the iPhone party.  Actually, scratch that.

I waited until I could purchase the device at a reasonable price – and that is not something I am ashamed to admit.  When an upgrade offer of $99 for the phone with a two-year contract came to my attention, how could I say no?

As an iPhone user for a little over a month now, I have difficulty remembering how I functioned without it. Today, I’m going to share with you a few apps that have changed my life.

Facebook for iPhone and Echofon

I’m going to lump these two applications together. Do they really need an introduction? Well, yes. Not everyone sits on TechCrunch all day. Elitist bloggers please take note!

Facebook for iPhone allows access to your Facebook account in ways you never imagined. The application has a grid-like menu that provides easy access to all of Facebook’s most important features and makes sharing photos incredibly easy. Push notifications  – which should have been a no-brainer from the start – only recently arrived, but who cares? It’s just an added bonus. I would have used it no matter what. Afterall, this is Facebook – we use it, we love it and we cannot live with out it!

Echofon is routinely touted as the best free Twitter app on the market.  It loads fast, offers multiple features and allows you to view profiles with ease.  Although push notification features are only available by purchasing Echofon Pro, I’m not terribly disappointed.

Pandora

Distractions – i.e. real life – have disrupted my intake of music over the years. I no longer attend local shows as often as I once did and I’ve become less willing to take risks with my discretionary income. The solution? Pandora Radio!

After entering a song or artist you enjoy, the service automatically selects music and artists that are similar. Although I was already familiar with Pandora, I was overjoyed to hear there was a Pandora app available for the iPhone. Pandora is the type of service that seems made for mobile devices. I would have to guess that users get way more mileage out of this app than they ever would just using the web-based version.

Are you familiar with the Music Genome Project? If not, take a look. It’s an incredible project and the reason why you can enjoy Pandora today!

Dragon Dictation

Dragon Dictation is a speech recognition program that translates your spoken word to text. Once translated, you can text or email instantaneously. Its accuracy is quite impressive and it also allows you to add punctuation.  The app has received some rave reviews with good reason; long texts and emails now take only seconds to create and edit before before they are ready to be sent.

However, usefulness alone has not been enough to shield Dragon Dictation and its creator Nuance from controversy.

As TechCrunch reports, some terms of the service’s End User License Agreement lit up the blogsphere late last year when word that the app collects the names in your address book became publicized.

Nuance soon issued a statement explaining that it only collects contact names so Dragon Dictation can better recognize them during the translation process. The company also issued an update to the app which gives users the opportunity to not share this information upon first use. 

Dragon Dictation is too good to be free. Hop aboard before they start charging!

Honorable Mentions:

TweetDeck

I have been toying with Tweetdeck for the past couple weeks and I find it to be incredibly useful. It has become especially handy when I participate in Twitter chats from my phone because it allows me to create streams divided by hashtags.

Can 19% of the market really be wrong?

I Am T-Pain

Okay, the I Am T-Pain app really didn’t change my life, but it is a hell of a lot of fun to play around with. Even CNN thinks so!

Use this app to sing along to your favorite auto-tuned cuts from T-Pain himself.  Once complete, simply upload them and share with friends!

Zombie Hunter (7DA)

I have not wasted this much time on a videogame since the halcyon days of Nintendo.

If you are as big a zombie fan as I am, you have to check out ZombieHunter 7DA. You will find hours of delight in cutting down hordes of the undead while completing various missions designed to help save the world from “mutation.” The graphics on this game are top notch and the replay value is through the roof! Best of all, it’s free!

What are the iPhone apps have you been using?

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How Not to Write a Press Release

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Big news hit the world of heavy music today, as Carl Severson and Paul Conroy – founding owners of Ferret Music – announced the formation of  Good Fight Entertainment, a sports and music management company that will also act as a record label.

That is the long and short of it. I advise you to take my word for it too. The reason? Well, the press release for this announcement is borderline unreadable.

What went wrong? Well, a few things. Let’s take a look:

1. Not Making Each Word Count

At almost 1000 words, this release is too long. Did we really need a full paragraph explaining that this new company plans on having a website and a Facebook page?  Also, I understand the point of endorsements by opinion-makers, but a quote from hardcore legend Freddy Cricien discussing Madball’s career is completely off topic. It should not have been included in this release.

2. Jargon

Buzz words are sometimes necessary, but I think we have a case of overkill on our hands. Take a look at the following excerpt:

“Pioneers in the hardcore and metal scenes, and former partners at Ferret Music, Warner Music and ChannelZERO, Conroy and Severson have proven track records for innovative thinking and unwavering tenacity. Their abundance of experience has taught them how to spot cutting edge talent and propel them into the spotlight.”

Terms like “innovative,” “unwavering tenacity,” and “cutting edge,” reek of contrivance and continue to hide the facts that are really important. The term “cutting edge” is even used again in the very next paragraph.

Perhaps the biggest issue here is that the name of this endeavor is not made very clear. Most of the release refers to it as “Good Fight Music.” However, there are instances where it is referred to as “Good Fight Entertainment.” I have found pages on social networking sites referring to it as “Good Fight Records.”  Are these all the same thing? Can the names be used interchangeably? When your reader is confused, you are in trouble!

3. Unanswered Questions

Last but not least, there is an unfortunate lack of information here. This announcement is newsworthy because Conroy and Severson founded Ferret Music – one of the biggest labels in the history of the hardcore/metal music scene. So…what’s going on with Ferret right now? Has it ceased to exist? If not, who is running it? The label is home to a slew of bands not mentioned as artists who will be releasing music under the Good Fight Music name. Have their contracts been terminated? Even a nonfan has to wonder what has become of the label that launched these men’s careers.

I did not write this to attack Ferret, Good Fight Entertainment/Good Fight Music or anyone involved. After all, this is huge news. Two hardcore/metal pioneers are branching out in a new direction. Hardcore stalwarts like Madball and Disembodied have a new label to call home. In many ways, this is another step towards the legitimate recognition of heavy music.

Though the bottom line still stands; I was ready to stop reading this press release by the third paragraph and this is coming from a fan. I imagine a journalist’s attention span would expire much sooner.

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Social Media: What Should You Be Sharing?

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Have you ever wondered why some folks blog about what is really obvious?

Potential employers are doing background checks by using social media? Really? “Re-tweeting” is a great way to spread information on Twitter? No way!

For a long time, I assumed these posts were purely for SEO purposes. I then realized these posts exist because they really are needed. I am constantly amazed by some of the material I see shared by individuals who actively use social media – especially Twitter – to professionally brand themselves. That being said, here is a quick reminder of what you should actually be sharing…

Your Personal Side

I have written about this before, and my opinion still stands. It really doesn’t matter what the Social Media Elite have to say about what you had for lunch. You must convey to the public that you are a human being. That means talking about on your favorite sports team, your favorite music and even your favorite food.

My answers!

1) The Boston Red Sox

2) Hardcore punk and metal

3) Indian food – all day, everyday!

Your Thoughts and Opinions…Within Reason

Acting like a robot is pretty self-defeating. The folks who stand out are not afraid to go against the grain. If you have a differing opinion, don’t be afraid to share it. You will be surprised by the amount of people willing to get to know you because of it. This does not mean, however, that you should be screaming from the rooftops about every controversial topic you can think of. It is usually a good idea to stay away from politics and religion.

My answers!

1) I contemplate deleting my Facebook account daily.

2) The reason I stay clear of political debates is because most people are not interested in sharing ideas. They are interested in telling you why you are wrong.

3) Alf’s real name is Gordon Shumway. Did you know that?

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Twitter is not just about tweeting. In fact, there are a whole slew of activities you can take part in such as file sharing, activism and even some game playing. Just because you are using the service for professional purposes, doesn’t mean you cannot have a little fun, right?

Check out Mashable’s list, “Things to Do on Twitter Besides Tweet.”  This will help you accomplish all of the above. These guys will never steer you in the wrong direction.

My answers!

1) Not really an answer here. Instead I am going to fully admit that some of these tools are lame.

Did this post help? I hope so. I think I actually learned from it!

What did you learn? You can at least tell me your favorite food…

I'm, Ron Burgundy?
Stay Classy, Twitter!
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Sociology and Social Networking

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Emile Durkheim was a French sociologist who is often considered the founding father of the field. He held distinguished views on the topic of social solidarity. Social solidarity seeks to recognize the interactions and shared values that hold relationships together. According to Durkheim, social solidarity falls under two categories: mechanical and organic.

Mechanical solidarity refers mostly to a society that is linked mostly by the similarities that are shared by its members. Members often share the same lifestyle, values and experiences. Rituals and routines are very common and help build their collective conscience. Mechanical solidarity focuses on primary and familial relationships.

Organic solidarity refers to society whose members are highly individualistic but interact in order to achieve a common goal. Members are dependent upon one another and very often do not share the same lifestyle, values and experiences.  Organic solidarity puts a large emphasis on secondary relationships.

Below is a chart from the Collins Dictionary of Sociology which defines the two in a bit more detail:

Feature

Mechanical solidarity

Organic solidarity

Morphological (structural) basis

Based on resemblances (predominant in less advanced societies)
Segmental type (first clan-based, later territorial)
Little interdependence (social bonds relatively weak)
Relatively low volume of population
Relatively low material and moral density
Based on division of labour (predominately in more advanced societies)
Organized type (fusion of markets and growth of cities)
Much interdependency (social bonds relatively strong)
Relatively high volume of population
Relatively high material and moral density

Types of norms (typified by law)

Rules with repressive sanctions
Prevalence of penal law
Rules with restitutive sanctions
Prevalence of cooperative law (civil, commercial, procedural, administrative and constitutional law)

Formal features of conscience collective

High volume
High intensity
High determinateness
Collective authority absolute
Low volume
Low intensity
Low determinateness
More room for individual initiative and reflection

Content of conscience collective

Highly religious
Transcendental (superior to human interests and beyond discussion)
Attaching supreme value to society and interests of society as a whole
Concrete and specific
Increasingly secular
Human-orientated (concerned with human interests and open to discussion)
Attaching supreme value to individual dignity, equality of opportunity, work ethic and social justice
Abstract and general

This brings me to the social networking movement that has exploded in recent years. Everyone under the sun and probably beyond it has already told you this.  No matter what way you spin it, the advent of these new technologies has changed the way we communicate forever.

But Myspace, Facebook and Twitter have also undoubtedly created their own communities.

One might automatically assume that the types of relationships formed through social networking communities fall under the model of organic solidarity but I think that if you take a closer look, you might be surprised.

Either way, I think it is important to remember that Durkheim would also not care “What 80’s Hair Metal Rock Star” you are.

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