What's a long tail movie?


The phrase "The Long Tail" was first coined by Chris Anderson. In a post on his blog, Long Tail 101, he explains this theory.

"The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of "hits" (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly-target goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare."
Certain independent films are becoming increasingly popular among the specific demographics they appeal to. These are sometimes referred to as special interest or niche films (think gay/lesbian films or documentaries that would interest a small group of people). A more recent post explains How to make a Long Tail movie.
"Long Tail markets emerge when the cost of production and distribution fall dramatically. Digital production and distribution did that for music five years ago and they're doing it for amateur video now, thanks to camcorders and YouTube. But what about classic filmed drama, from the TV serial to movies? . . . Combined with the new low-cost distribution channels, from DVD to digital downloads, all you now need to be a filmmaker is talent."
The post includes samples from "The DV Rebel's Guide" by Stu Maschwitz. Rent a smoke machine or use dry ice to achieve a stylized look.
"What's amazing about filling a room with smoke is that in person it seems so stupid and obvious. But look through your viewfinder and something magical happens. Through your camera, you don't see smoke. You just see a scene that looks more like a movie. Smoke is one of those dirty tricks that really works. It makes things seem larger than life. It gives your images depth. It gives light a physical presence in your film. And perhaps surprisingly, smoke can actually light your scene for you."
Many amateur film makers want to know how to make their digital video look like analog film. The first thing to do is shoot you film in 24p. The second thing to do is work on getting the lighting right. Extra smoke in a room can really change the look of the video you shoot.
The DV Rebel cannot pass a glass elevator, or an open-air escalator, or a tire swing, without pondering how it might be used to create a smooth establishing shot. I once made a dolly shot in an airport by resting my camera on the rail of a moving pedestrian walkway. If you can ride it, it's a dolly. If you can ride it up and down, it's a crane.
Shaky video is usually always considered amateur video. Films are shot using dollys, cranes, and steady cams (See the poor man's steady cam post). Keep the motion in your video smooth and avoid using zooms.
Time is your greatest advantage over the Hollywood big boys. If they want it to rain, they rent rain towers at hundreds of dollars per day and make it rain on the day they need it to. A week later it rains for real and they lose a day or move to a cover set. You just wait for the rain and shoot on that day -- and your free rain looks way better than their million-dollar rain! The DV Rebel melts down time and re-forms it into production value.

Your father might have said "time is money." When it comes to guerrilla filmmaking, you'll need to give up your time to save money. It's going to take longer to complete a film when you are still learning how to best make a film. By reading books like The DV Rebel's Guide and filmmaking blogs like this one, you'll have an advantage when it comes time to shoot your film.

Anderson mentiones that Kevin Kelly reviewed "The DV Rebels Guide" in his latest Cool Tools. The samples from the book came from a Cool Tools e-mail and should appear on the CT site soon.

UPDATE: Kevin has updated his page to include his review of DV Rebels Guide.