Keith Mitchell – Writer, Producer, Distributor

I love industry events! Not only do you learn from the speakers and workshops, but you meet so many interesting people. Keith Mitchell is one of those folks. We sat next to each other at the Christian Retail Show pitch-a-thon then connected again at ICVM. I was privileged to be interviewed by him for his podcast and now am excited to interview him. Keith is a former writer and producer now working at the Partner Development Manager at Cinevee.

What is your film/tv background?
I worked in Hollywood for 20 years as a writer, producer.  I penned the studio features Eddie, Mr. 3000, Dr. Doolittle 3, Like Mike 2: Streetball, andThe Sandlot: Heading Home. I have set up projects as a producer in both TV and film at most of the major studios.

How did you end up in film distribution?
Upon the heels of the Writer’s Guild Strike of 2008, I ventured into the independent film landscape only to recognize that there was an inherent problem in the process of quality independent films making it into movie theaters. Hence the New Hollywood model was born.  I partnered with 10 mid-level theater chains across the country to agree to screen a film my company acquired for one week in exchange for a small percentage of ownership in the title.  I pitched them that it takes a long time to get paid but you get paid for a long time.  This model was never done before and I ended up releasing 3 films in this manner.   It was through this journey that I created the world’s first online film festival.   It was great.  I created an environment that allowed the consumer to experience everything you can do at Sundance you can do online.  We had cast and crew Q&A’s and panels along with features, shorts, and docs.  I had visitors from 103 countries and had 89,000 visitors. Afterward, we decided to convert the platform into a licensing platform for other festivals.  We are calling it Festivee.

Tell us about Festivee.
Developed especially for festivals, Festivee equips you to deliver media to virtually any internet-connected device in the world. Stream films, trailers, seminars, panels – whatever you want, for as long as you want – all from your website and your mobile app!  We are the digital extension to your live event.

What do you think is the greatest challenge facing indie filmmakers when it comes to distribution?
It’s one of the few industries that create a product and allow others to monetize it before the creators.   I am stunned at the lack of knowledge filmmakers have with how distribution companies operate.   The good news is that now is a great time to take back control of your IP.   There are so many places and platforms that will license and play your film.  Also don’t be afraid of self-distribution. The beauty of self-distribution is that you cut out the middleman – the much loathed and feared distributor. These days it doesn’t mean that you have to do all the work yourself. You can hire publicists, theatre bookers and so on. But it does mean that you have to do more work.

How can Cinevee help indie filmmakers?
Cinevee is a comprehensive solution that enables you to manage, sell, and deliver your content digitally.
Our service provides media hosting & delivery, e-commerce, and promotional tools in a secure and scalable environment. No Risk to Start. With no up-front fees, you can click the tires and drive this fine-tuned sports car off the lot today. Customized for You. From design to development, our in-house team can integrate solutions unique to your business. Enterprise-level Delivery. Vetted by multi-million dollar companies, our SaaS solution is backed by 99.9% SLAs. Monetize Web, App, & OTT. Your customers want to watch your media when and where they want. With Cinevee, they can.

What distinguishes Cinevee from other distribution platforms?
We are a small company.  We hold our customers’ hands during the process.   We also only take a smaller percentage of profits from our competitors with no start-up fees.  We get paid when they get paid.  But best of all, the client gets paid immediately after a transaction takes place.

What advice would you offer filmmakers to help them market their movies?
They need to think outside the box office.   If a filmmaker has the guts to actually go out and raise money and spend time producing the film then they should have the brass to carry the ball over the goal line.  Most filmmakers are burnt out or ready to move on to their next project when a film is in the can.  In fact, when it’s in the can is probably when the real heavy lifting begins.

Anything else?
Independent filmmaking requires understanding film distribution. Unfortunately, many independent filmmakers struggle to make it happen. The issue is that many independent films develop without distribution in mind. Rather than making your film and then considering how to get film distribution, I recommend considering the aspects that relate to film distribution during the screenwriting process.

The riches are in the niches.  One way to cut through the noise is direct people to the project through social channels. Try to align your film with tastemakers in the niche area you are exploiting.  For example, if you are making a family movie about toys, try to find a YouTuber who reviews toys and get them on board. Distributors know marketing.   It is not brain surgery.  Just good ole common sense.   Will it make consumers buy a bad movie? No. But it might help a good movie cut through all the noise.

Another good plan? Think about ways to market the film. Consider potential artwork, snippets for social media, trailers…  Then, think beyond the distribution process. Think about why someone will choose to watch the movie.  By putting that hat on early, and demonstrating that you’re ready, distributors, foreign sales agents, and moviegoers alike are more likely to buy in.  It is my contention that if a movie can make back half it’s money in the U.S. then over time the rest of the world will make up the rest along with some profit.

In the end, a filmmaker must be entrepreneurial.   If they are not gifted in that area then they should partner with someone who loves start ups, because after all, all films are just like staring a company.

Social Corner:
Cinevee Website
Cinevee on Facebook 
Cinevee on Twitter
Keith Mitchell on Twitter
Festivee Website
Festivee on Twitter

Author: Sharon Wilharm

Sharon Wilharm is a female filmmaker, blogger, and speaker with over a decade of industry experience. She and her husband, Fred, just released SUMMER OF '67, their seventh feature film. Their movies have screened in theaters, festivals, and churches around the globe as well as multiple television networks. They've accumulated dozens of festival accolades including many Best of Fest awards and 4 ICVM Crown Awards. Sharon is passionate about visual storytelling, branding, and marketing and would love to speak at your upcoming event.

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