Jonathan Brun

How to market your indie film or documentary

I have no experience in the movie industry, have never made a movie, and probably couldn’t make one either. But, I recently had an interesting email exchange with the creators of the documentary Buck. I contacted them to outline my frustration at trying to watch the movie in Canada. The movie had been on the festival circuit for many months, and was available on DVD in the United States, but it was not available in Canada. On their website, they mention a number of screenings in Canada, none of which were in Montréal.

Due to my frustration, I ended up illegally downloading the film to watch it. In this blog post, I plan to lay out my thoughts on how film makers can more effectively market their documentary or small indie film.

Let’s face it, the industry’s distribution model is completely broken – it is based in a world where the Internet does not exist. Film makers must fix their marketing strategy so that they can increase revenues and facilitate financing for future films.

1. Don’t waste 80% of your marketing budget!

Movies spend most of their advertising budget in the run up to the theatrical release. But ,by the time the film is ready for distribution on iTunes, NetFlix, and other large scale platforms – the public has forgotten your ads.

Time your advertising with easy access to your film. Since the best way to distribute your movie today is through online systems, not theatres, your marketing budget for online and theatrical release should be adjusted accordingly. Obviously leverage social media for promotion – Facebook, Twitter, etc.

You could also release the film online from the start to maximize exposure from reviews and critical acclaim.

2. Don’t release your film by country, eh!

With the internet, it’s insane to try and stagger your releases by country. When someone in Canada has to wait months to see your US movie, they will inevitably turn to a pirated copy, I did.

Most of your marketing will and should be done online. Because online marketing can easily link to a purchase or rental of your film, it seems wise to ensure it is available everywhere simultaneously. Because the producers of the Matrix 2 knew their audience was tech savvy and would pirate the film; they decided to release it globally at the same time. It worked.

3. Theatres no longer guarantee a better viewing experience

The traditional argument for releasing to theatres has been that the theatre provides the most authentic experience of the film as intended by the creators. In 2011, millions of homes have amazing HD TVs, surround sound and great seating: the theatre -quality argument seems weaker by the day.

As a side note, the move to 3D films in theatres has clearly been to keep consumers coming out to theatres, theatre companies are very aware of this HD TV issue. For traditional 2D movies and especially films that play in smaller artistic theatres, the home often provides a higher quality experience than the theatre.

It all boils down to this: someone has to break the control theatres and distributors have on movie creators. I understand the prestige of releasing your film in theatres, but if your goal is to have as many people as possible pay to see it; theatres are no longer the best approach.

Film production costs have been dramatically reduced thanks to HD cameras and high power computers. Filmmakers have un-rivalled distribution channels to millions of people; yet, they still seem set on the old model of festivals and theatres.

Your goal as a movie creator should be to earn a healthy living and have your film enjoyed by as many people see it as possible, not to get awards and help movie theatres. Simply stated, I think movie creaters should bypass the existing distribution traps, market your film directly to your audience, and retain ownership of the entire process.

It took the music industry a decade and billions of dollars to learn this lesson, how long will it take the film industry?

If you have not read the Long Tail by Marc Anderson of Wired magazine, please do.

Published on October 23, 2011

3 free business ideas

This is a follow-up to my last 7 free ideas, which you can read here. And the excellent discussion that happened on Hacker News.

Why give these ideas away? I have too many ideas and too little time. If anyone wants to take these and run with them, go for it! If you do, I would be keen to know how it goes.

1. Small claims website (class-action suits via the web)

Faulty products, misleading marketing and neighbourly complaints are all too frequent. Most people do not know their rights or how to defend them. Filling out government forms and filing in small claims court is very time consuming and unless the issue really caused harm, you are not likely to file.

There may be an opportunity to build a web platform where users could select a Product or Situation in their jurisdiction and the forms and filing procedures would be automatically populated. This is similar to the online incorporation or will creation websites.

Eventually, if many people file for the same thing (i.e. a faulty product), a class action suit could be taken up by a law firm. This idea is very rough but came about when a friend (who is a lawyer) described his situation. He had purchased  Kryptonite bike lock which is advertised as having “unbreakable bonds, blah blah” and he then promptly had his bike stolen.

He filed in small claims court for the replacement cost of his used bike (about 250$ and a lock 50$). As a plaintiff, it costs 70$ to file, to defend against an accusation, it costs 120$. He filed against two parties – the bike lock distributor and the store where he purchased it. As such, for them to defend, it will cost a total of 240$, make it likely that they will settle. Now, my friend is a lawyer and knows how to file these things and write scary letters, for the average individual, this task is to daunting. We could automate it with some pre-populated forms where users can “fill in the blanks”.

2. A Site for the Elderly

Old people like simple things! Think the Jitterbug telephone, but for the web. In a sense, the iPad is already doing this – but that market is still very small.

Someone could create a web browser homepage with a few basic links: Email, Photos, Telephone Numbers, Skype Video Calling and Other reminders. You could also have a system that allows them to enter their family members contact info and have automatic emails go out to them asking for a phone call, or to send photos, which can be pushed to the grandparent.

Huge market potential.

3. A Marketplace for students to do legal research

Basically like RentaCoder but specifically for law students. A lot of people have no idea where to start when it comes to legal issues, and law firms are very expensive. Even law firms are outsourcing their work to India. Many law students could use the extra cash, they just need a marketplace to connect with clients who want legal research (i.e. compile jurisprudence on a subject, find resources online, do a bit of digging), but the students would NOT give legal advice.

In the UK, they just passed a law (the Legal Services Bill, alternativly called the Tesco Law, see BBC article) allowing non legal firms to offer legal information, soon Tesco, Wal-Mart and other retailers will have a low-cost legal desk. Until then, an online legal service could be great (though it might be illegal in a number of jurisdictions).

Update: It seems someone already did this and even selcted the same domain as me, ha!

Published on July 29, 2010

Free business ideas

Ideas are worth little to nothing, execution is everything. So in light of that, here are a few ideas I simply do not have time to work on. If anyone wants to use them or build on them, go for it, if you want to join forces, send me an email at

Update: there is a good conversation going on at Hacker News.

1. Health Ticket Restaurants

Meal vouchers for employees that are only valid in “healthy” restaurants. In France, many companies offer meal vouchers to their employees – these vouchers are deducted before taxes (payroll, income, etc.) and so there is an incentive. The employee pays part of the cost and the company pays part of the cost. A similar system would be used for Healthy Tickets, though the financial incentives are less interesting than in the french system, the tickets could potentially have insurance premium advantages and be integrated into the company’s wellness program.

I have a more detailed document about this idea, contact me if interested.

2. EventChase (

A website to find and organize pick-up sports games in the park. When you are bored on a Saturday afternoon, you would use this site to find a hockey game, ultimate frisbee, soccer, etc that is going on in your neighbourhood. I made a beta version of the site, found at and there are links to other similar sites that actually have a community. I think this is one of those problems that on the surface seems easy to solve, but is in fact very hard.

I have a more detailed document about this idea, contact me if interested.

3. Fight

A website dedicated to help kids cope and deal with bullies. We would post a help hotline, useful texts, videos and information on how to stop a bully. Also give the kids examples of people who were bullied in their youth and turned out to be great people. This would be a non-profit venture.

4. A Bunker for rich people during a catastrophe

I had the idea a few years ago to build a bunker in northern Canada that could be used in the case of an emergency. People would reserve their place in advance – like an insurance policy and be guaranteed a spot when they arrive. Capital costs would be fairly high and it looks like someone has beaten me to it, best of luck!

5. Rent a Life for students

Basically, students who rent unfurnished apartments are in desperate need of basic items (plates, glasses, sheets, …). Since they have limited money and often go away for the summer (especially true of exchange students), they may be interested in renting the items rather than buying them. When I was a student abroad I would go and purchase the cheapest possible items because I knew that at the end of the year, I would probably throw them away. I would much rather have spent the same money on a rental of better quality items. Basically, we would stock small containers of items (two plates, two glasses, two sets of sheets, …) and the student would rent it out per semester with a deposit.

Once we have rented everything out for the semester, we could use the space to sell basic food items to the same students who have little cash. We would stock a very limited number of items – pizza, pasta, tomato sauce, … and offer them at very reasonable prices. We could hire reps who live in university housing to push the products and do marketing for us.

6. for businesses

Create a website that allows companies with extra desks in the office to rent them out to small companies and freelancers.

7. Homeless people profiles

A website (wiki) that has the profiles of homeless or people in difficulty in your neighbourhood. We would conduct interview and post their info (with their permission) on the site. They could specify what associations help them and how you might be able to help them. This would be a way to humanize the people in difficulty in your area and allow you to reach out to them.

Project details (in french) here.

Published on May 8, 2010

Immigrants Welcome – Free Domain Names

Two interesting articles came my way today, one from the New York Times explaining the challenges with bringing talented foreigners to the United States to work. The other was an essay advocating for a new type of visa for people who want to found a business.

It seems obvious to me that Canada should open up our borders to talented people from around the world who are prepared to invest their lives in our society. Confusingly, some people think immigration is a zero-sum game. If you bring someone into the country, they will take the job an unemployed Canadian. Really, immigration is anything but a zero-sum game, new businesses mean new jobs, new wealth and new suppliers.

In fact, many of the greatest Canadian businesses were started by immigrants who came for free land; Seagram’s, Magna International, and many others. South of the border, over 50% of Silicon Valley businesses have been started by non-americans, I would imagine the same ratio holds for Canadian businesses.

As such, opening up our borders and offering our technological, legal and physical infrastructure to willing people will undoubtedly bring job and wealth growth. Let us not fool ourselves, at a paltry 35 million people in the second largest country in the world, we still have A Lot of Space. Just as we once offered free land to eastern Europeans willing to farm, we should offer easy visas to people willing to plant their intellectual seed in our nation.

If the world is flat, we should make canada the valley where the water collects – that is where the animals gather to feed.

Published on April 11, 2009

My Business Venture – Enterprise Web 2.0

Many people have recently asked me what I am doing, by which they really mean are you employed, getting dressed in the morning, and abiding by the rules of upper-middle class society. So here is my rough explanation of what is occupying my time these days. 
Until recently, I worked for EEM, an environmental consulting group. As a small portion of their business, they sold an online database of Canadian environmental regulations and simplified explanations. The product, NIMONIK, was originally designed as an enterprise (web-based) software for large multi-jurisdiction corporations. It was a break-even operation.
Some of the shortcomings were the high price structure, the old web 1.0 technology and the static 800 x 600 design – ultimately boiling down to the product itself. Since May, we have purchased the product from the consulting group and started renewing it as a more dynamic, simpler, and richer website that will (we hope) become a community hub for Canadian environmental managers. We want to build an affordable web 2.0 application for companies – not currently a common sight.
On this project, I am working with Yves Faguy, a lawyer who was at the consulting group, and Paul Maclean, the president of the consulting group. We also have two fantastic people working on the content and the software with us.
Part of our strategy is to reduce membership fees, allow users to import/export ISO 14001 information, and upload corporate documents. Furthermore, users will be able to add comments, rate articles, and generally speaking – participate in the content to create institutional memory for their companies. The great thing about the project is that it comes with cash-flow (not much), a reputation and a lot of rich content – more than what 90% of web start-ups can claim.
Soon, NIMONIK will become a web 2.0 enterprise community driven website for Canadian Fortune 5 000 000 businesses. 
Published on July 25, 2008