The Best & Not-So-Best of DIY Days

I’m still reeling with all the sagely advice and newfangled insights I walked away with after leaving DIY Days in NYC this past weekend. I wanted to mention some of the best and not-so-best moments of the event (of the seminars and workshops I attended).

Biggest Highlight: The OpenIndie Revolution
From the moment Arin Crumley commanded the stage to the minute he left behind his imprint in our minds as he walked off, I was captivated by this energetic DIY entrepreneur’s skill with words, images, ability to instill power into his audience. I felt as if I was listening to Henry V’s St. Crispen’s Day speech –– I was that fueled with a desire to get out of the New School and do something! An especially awesome highlight was hearing a roomful of filmmakers, producers, screenwriters, and the motley rest of us chanting at the top of our lungs the ol’ Network mantra “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” Truly empowering! The only downside (perhaps of the entire event) was that Arin’s presentation should have been the last one of the day; you just can’t top a presentation of that caliber.

On Being Yourself
I walked out of Michael Margolis‘ workshop “The Real You: Personal Branding, Social Media, and Storytelling” a changed man. Not only is Michael’s advice sagely and practical, but his delivery was filled with hype and energy. My only beef? The workshop was too darn short! On the upside, I just downloaded a copy of Michael’s book Believe Me: Why Your Vision, Brand and Leadership Need a Bigger Story and am looking forward to absorbing more insight about how important it is to be comfortable with who you are and what you’re doing before you can feel comfortable presenting it to the world.

From Reminiscence to Results
At first, I was like, “why is this guy spending 60% of his talk relaying all these specific details of his past?” and I slowly realized that it’s because Jeff Gomez was building up a character with an unbelievable arc without putting pen to page, because he was the character. Mixing his traumatic childhood and inability to expound upon the terrors harbored in his mind, haunting his days and nights to being saved by an obscure 1970s Japanese manga hero though print, serial and cinematic experiences, Jeff kept me captivated for his entire 30 minute presentation on “Transmedia Storytelling: Creating Blockbuster Worlds.” Jeff definitely enlightened me to all the amazing new things that are happening now regarding the myriad platforms and possibilities for DIY filmmaking and distribution, many of which are not all that new.

Showbiz 101: A Simplified Pedagogy
Although I was a bit befuddled during Brian Chirls‘ workshop “Who Does Business This Way?!” I was engaged from beginning to end and felt that this presentation, like Michael’s, should have been longer. I got a kick out of Brian’s pie charts and practical analogies about how business is done in the real world (using the steel industry as his paradigm) versus how it’s done in the movie industry (back asswards, apparently!), and it proved very helpful for someone like me, who has no background in business whatsoever.

There’s No Such Thing as Original…Or Is There?
Brian Newman‘s talk on “Reinventing Innovation” was also an eye opener for me. Blending both the serious with the comedic elements of the ever-changing DIY cosmos, the presentation was well-done, tight and comprehensible. And although Brian didn’t offer up any concrete answers (since there really aren’t many actual answers out there) to the inquisitive comets swarming all our minds, he did a terrific job detailing every layer of this Jupiter-sized onion so that it doesn’t seem so overwhelming anymore. It now seems explorable though the possibilities are seemingly endless.

The Secrets of Serialized Content…Kept Secret!
Admittedly, I’m not the most up-to-date filmmaker out there (heck, I just watched Logorama!), I have to say, I was impressed by the innovation and storytelling present in the übersuccessful webseries Radar. But I took the workshop “Creating a Brand Through Serialized Content” because I wanted to learn how to, well, create a brand through serialized content. And that was the one thing that was never addressed. As impressed I was by the success of Alex Johnson, Janine Saunders, and Josh Cramer, I walked away from this workshop completely unworked and with absolutely no newfound knowledge to keep in my manvelope (except for the knowledge that Radar exists.) This felt like one giant plug for Radar and Babelgum.

Keynote Speaker Not so Key to Me
I’m probably one of the only DIY Days attendees (if not the only!) who was not at all moved by keynote speaker Ted Hope‘s talk about community building, helping one another out, and coming together as filmmakers. Don’t get me wrong, now––I believe in every one of those elements and think that each is integral to the success of indie filmmakers at the DIY level (I especially believe this now, given Cerise‘s recent crowdfunding success on IndieGoGo); and of course I’m aware that Ted is an awesome guy (see “Side Note” below) and an even more awesome blogger, offering up tons of great advice himself and by way of guest bloggers; and I am a fan of (some of) his films (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind remains my all time favorite film. Ever!); and perhaps it was just the fact that he was unprepared, but there was simply no passion, no urgency behind his words, and, quite frankly, I just didn’t believe him.

Side Note: This was my second time listening to Ted Hope speak. Last year I attended quite an expensive finance seminar hosted by The School of Visual Arts. Ted was part of a panel of four, and was the only speaker who instilled a sense of hope in the audience, while Larry Meistrich, producer of Sling Blade, unlatched all the evils in Pandora’s chest and sought only to grind us down into fine pulp to discard our filmic endeavors to the wind. Ted was the voice of reason in the room, something that I will always appreciate.

All in All…
DIY Days was an exceptional event, and I give props to Lance Weiler for putting it all together and offering this event for free, which is something I think more people should do; after all, information should be free for the public, for those who want it.

Follow ‘Em on Twitter!
And if you’re not already doing so, be sure to follow @arincrumley @openindie @getstoried @Jeff_Gomez @bchirls @bnewman01 @alexjohnson_ @janinesaunders and @TedHope.

2 thoughts on “The Best & Not-So-Best of DIY Days

  1. Thanks for sharing your honest assessments, John. Love your enthusiasm and your candor. Maybe next time you'll be up there sharing your insights re: CERISE's success…

  2. I had very similar responses to Gomez & Margolis sessions. The way Gomez spun out his tale was like a slow, brilliant burn and how very likeable Margolis was (not to mention insightful) even though we were way in the back of the room, says a lot about his dynamism. Also cool to hear about other sessions I didn't attend (while I was off learning about 3D printers and the future of music) – it was a great event!

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