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Eric Bricker

The filmmaker Eric Bricker takes us behind the scenes of his newest film project in our miniseries "What If...?"

What happens to the feature-length film in a world where new media formats seem to develop on a weekly basis? Contrary to what YouTube might tell you, a singular statement comprised of moving images, dialogue and music in which an audience can completely immerse themselves is still an experience that audiences desire. Judging by 2009's box office—the first time ever the annual box-office total exceeded $10 billion—many agree it is an experience that still matters.



However, if you don't have the next Avatar on your hands, and knowing that a Paranormal Activity has the odds of a once in a decade phenomenon, getting an independent film to its audience is still a colossal task and a documentary film is colossal times two. Yes, the production means have been flattened in terms of cost and accessibility, but what happens after you have completed your project is still very much in question.

Today's glut of independent product (more than 9,000 films were submitted to Sundance 2010) coupled with the overall fractured media landscape has devalued our product not only by the conventional distribution channels but by the general public as well. So how can documentary filmmakers compete with not only the large number of other independent films, but with studio films and the rest of the media universe? I subscribe to screenwriter William Goldman's idea that when it comes to releasing a film "nobody knows anything."

I believe great movies ignite an ongoing "conversation" between the filmmaker and the audience which can persist across a number of different new media platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, mobile devices) as well as traditional (theaters, television, DVD). Starting this conversation with the audience is paramount. Ultimately, we want our films to serve as the centerpiece, but in order to ignite that conversation we must spread strands or derivatives of our story across a number of different platforms prior to the film's release. On that release day you already have an assembled audience to whom you release your centerpiece. Paranormal Activity's buzzy grassroots campaign encouraged people to "demand it" in order to bring the film to their city, giving more than 1 million viewers a personal investment in the movie.

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