Publisher Spotlight: film & festivals

From Prague to Paducah, large cities and small towns around the world play host to 4,000 film festivals annually, attracting millions of filmmakers and cinema lovers eager to see their favorite artists unveil their silver screen masterpieces. While Variety and other mass media outlets cover the likes of Cannes and Sundance, only film and festivals magazine covers them all, even the smallest of festivals, spotlighting independent filmmakers who wouldn’t normally attract attention from the mainstream press.

“We were getting a good reputation for the quality of our coverage, so we decided to carry on,” Patmore says. “We opted for a digital format magazine, which happened to coincide with our already planned ‘green issue,’ in which we covered the environmental impact of film festivals and the movie industry. So we thought that would be a good tie-in as we relaunched the magazine in digital format.”

Recognizing the value of print, however, Patmore was hesitant to give it up entirely. When he searched the Web for print-on-demand resources, he found MagCloud.

“I thought it would be a good complementary option to the digital version because we could print with MagCloud without any upfront costs or any minimum orders,” Patmore says. “So we decided to give it a try, and here we are.”

Each issue of film and festivals features a specific theme, including that first environmental issue. Other topics so far have included filmmaking in Australia, Latin America and in Asia, children’s film festivals, microbudget British films and a spotlight on women filmmakers around the world. Thanks to the affordability of MagCloud, Patmore now publishes 10 issues a year instead of the original four.

A small team of writers and regular freelancers, along with guest contributors — usually indie filmmakers, themselves — provide the magazine’s content. Patmore solicits story ideas from them and makes assignments, tapping into each writer’s area of expertise. After editing the incoming pieces, he spends about five days designing the magazine and sourcing the photography. He then uploads the files to MagCloud for the print-on-demand version of the magazine, as well as to Yudu (yudu.com) for the digital version.

“I’m very impressed with MagCloud’s quality,” Patmore says. “I used digital printing for other jobs years ago. The technology has certainly improved. And you can’t beat having a magazine you can hold in your hands. I still feel the best way to read anything is on paper. I also like the archival advantages of print. However, I suspect that at the moment most of our magazine sales are to people who appear in the magazine and want to show it to others.”

And print publications, Patmore has learned, have higher credibility among publicists than Web sites. “It seems that the public relations companies still have far more respect for print — print journalists are always accorded more talent access despite the fact that we now have far more online readers,” he notes. “In those terms, it is important for us to remain in some sort of print format just to ensure we can get the best content for the articles.”

Patmore promotes the magazine by word of mouth, the film and festivals Web site (filmandfestivals.com) and through Facebook. And these days at festivals, instead of handing out free issues, Patmore and his team distribute promotional postcards detailing how to order copies.

The result? “The sales of our print magazine have been very slow to start with, but are increasing,” Patmore says. “And we’ve had nothing but positive feedback for both the quality of the content and the design. Since most of the feedback is coming from film professionals, it’s very heartening.

“The print magazine was never intended to be a major source of income for us, but to serve as an alternative to the digital version,” Patmore adds. “It has certainly turned out to be more profitable than our previous print version, which only lost money. Most of our readers access our free digital version, but we see a growing number of people buying the print-on-demand version.”

Patmore’s advice to aspiring magazine creators: “If you want to do it, then do it — it can be done now almost without any capital outlay,” he says. “But make sure the content is worthy of your intended readers. Quality should be the driving force — well written, grammatically correct articles; good photography and good design with legible, correctly formatted typography. If the design aspect is not good, then it might as well be a Web site or blog.”