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Documentary Audience: Part 2

Posted by newdoced • Mar 24th, 2017

audienceHappy Spring time! As promised, here’s Part 2 of my recommendations for expanding your film’s audience beyond your niche audience.

If you missed my previous post, get Part 1 here and watch the free Filmmaker.MBA webinar “How to Find Your Film’s Audience” here.

Last week I explained one key reason Supersize Me was so successful in reaching a large audience. And it’s not about Big Macs. Morgan Spurlock used language and appealed to the values of three major worldviews at play in America today.

The other key reason that doc was such a block buster—and here’s the second key to broadening your film’s appeal—is that Supersize Me told a story. Granted, it was a story Spurlock made up, a self-imposed narrative arc, of eating only McDonald’s food for 30 days. But it worked.

So here’s the takeaway: Stories speak across ideologies.

Exactly what is a story? A story is not an essay. It’s not a POV. It’s not a profile or a phenomenon.

A “Story”, as screenwriters define it, is recounting the effort to achieve or get something–in the face of great odds. At New Doc Editing, we’ve been pioneers in consciously and deliberately adapting screenwriting principles to films about real life.

We do this through our story consulting services and our innovated Accelerated Post program.

Thanks to Liz McBee, a director who excels at finding her niche audience and then expanding beyond it, for this testimonial:

“Bringing Karen on as my story consultant was my project’s saving grace. Her input was clear, to the point, strategic, skilled and crucial. I’m grateful to have found her!”

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Kind Editor With Storytelling Chops

Posted by newdoced • Mar 20th, 2017

4459977018_f3d4c751ae_cI have an editor coming available soon with terrific storytelling chops. If you’re looking for a talented cutter and all around nice person, email me about next steps.


We can edit your documentary in record time in our Accelerated Post program.

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Documentary Audience: Part 1

Posted by newdoced • Mar 16th, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 10.15.55Today I’m sharing new ideas that I presented on last week’s Webinar, “How To Find Your Film’s Audience”. If you missed the live session, listen for free here.

The webinar focused on why finding the smallest possible niche audience for your documentary will ensure its success. I believe that’s true for many reasons. Here’s one—as well as my contrarian ideas about expanding your audience beyond your niche.

First, a bit of cultural theory. In America today, according to many theorists, there aren’t just two competing worldviews (left and right), there are actually three major worldviews.

The first worldview, according to Integral theorists and Spiral Dynamics, is often called Traditional because adherents support traditional values like family, security, morality, order, and fundamentalism. About 25% of the U.S. population is estimated to be at the Traditionalist stage of development. It’s an ethnocentric worldview that sees the world in terms of us and them.

The second worldview in this model has been called Modernist. Modernists value science, merit-based capitalism, democracy, self-reliance and achievement. It’s the start of a world-centric way of seeing things, and it’s estimated that 50% of the US population operates from this perspective.

The third major worldview in America today has been called Postmodern. In many ways, Postmodernism is defined by a reaction to the excesses of modernism. Postmodernism is at play for about 20% of Americans (and for most of the documentary filmmakers I work with). The major values are equality, environmentalism, social justice and pluralism.

In America today, these three worldviews are at war with one another. Duh.

So…. what’s the takeaway for us filmmakers seeking to build an audience?

First, it’s the recognition that it’s extremely difficult to make a documentary that transcends to another worldview. And…it’s OK to sing to the choir. The choir needs to your clarion voice so it can sing louder.

But–if you aspire to make converts–I have two recommendations.

First, make a documentary from an Integral perspective. An Integral worldview—estimated at 5% of the population– sees the value in all the other worldviews. Such a film would use language and stress values that appeal to Traditionalists, Modernists and Postmodernists.

I think the film Supersize Me succeeded in many ways because Morgan Spurlock appealed to values across the board: he had a (presumably) postmodern, vegan girlfriend, he relied heavily on the modernist value of science and medicine to track his progress, and when he spoke to tradition-driven people (mostly on the street interviews), he didn’t disparage them. He seemed to value their perspective.

Next week I’ll reveal the second strategy for transcending your niche audience. Meanwhile, check out the free webinar on Filmmaker.MBA, where my former story consulting client Chris Rufo and his partner Keith Ochwat lay out the nuts and bolts of finding a niche market for documentary filmmakers.

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Documentary Distribution Workshop

Posted by newdoced • Mar 13th, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 11.51.51I’m happy to announce that the popular distribution workshop, HOW TO SELL YOUR FILM, is coming back to my alma mater at UC Berkeley, on April 8 & 9th. I took this weekend workshop last year, and it was fantastic—totally worth the money.

Jilann Spitzmiller and Anna Darrah will be offering their content-packed workshop, along with a new optional Day 2, where they will work directly with 10 projects to craft customized distribution strategies.

DAY 1 lays the groundwork for a comprehensive understanding of film distribution, empowering you to seek out deals from an educated and confident place, helping you to decide when to go DIY, and when to create a Hybrid Distribution Plan. Learn where distribution stands today for every genre and budget of film, how to find your audience and maximize your sales.

DAY 2 of the workshop, focuses deeply on YOUR project’s path. Anna and Jilann will work with you to forge a customized strategy that will monetize your project from now until many years into the future. No matter where you are in the distribution process, they will help you plan to make the best of your opportunities (even with an OLD film!)

I recommend you reserve your place, since last year it sold out, and currently there are only 9 spots left in Day 2!

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Documentary Webinar Recording Available

Posted by newdoced • Mar 10th, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 12.43.39Wednesday I had the pleasure of being a guest on the webinar “How To Find Your Film’s Audience”. If you missed the live session, you can register and listen for free at filmmaker.mba/karen-everett-audience.

I developed new material for this topic. Unfortunately, my microphone didn’t come through crystal clear (I’m audible), so I’m including some of my ideas below and in next week’s newsletter.

Hosted by my former story consulting client Chris Rufo and his partner Keith Ochwat, the webinar was full of nuts and bolts strategies for finding your documentary’s niche audience. I urge you to check out their Filmmaker.MBA program to learn business skills for documentary filmmakers.

This fan-based approach is reminiscent of author Kevin Kelly’s famous 2008 blog about 1000 true fans. His claim that a creator can thrive on 1,000 true fans is still relevant today.

You don’t need millions of viewers, you only need 1000 true fans, which Kelly defines as someone who “will buy anything you produce”.

The math goes like this: sell 1000 fans $100 worth of good content (videos, DVD’s, movie posters, study kits, etc.) per year. Sell directly to your fans, so you keep all the revenue (zero goes to distributors). That’s $100,000, a good living for most people!

In the free webinar, we modify this “niche market” concept for documentary filmmakers. Check it out!

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Webinar Tomorrow On Finding Your Audience

Posted by newdoced • Mar 6th, 2017

webinar-photoAs a reminder, I’m co-hosting a free webinar tomorrow, Wednesday, at 10am PST on how to identify your documentary’s niche audience.

I’m excited to introduce you to one of my former story consulting clients, Christopher Rufo, who with his partner Keith Ochwat will show you how they earned $1.5 million with their last film through DIY distribution.

I believe that Kevin Kelly’s famous blog on how artists can thrive with 1000 true fans is still relevant today. We’ll be sharing the nuts and bolts on how to build a powerful fan base around your documentary.

Space is limited, so register now to reserve your spot.


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Webinar: How to Find Your Film’s Audience

Posted by newdoced • Mar 1st, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-03-01 at 13.33.08I’m delighted to invite you to a free webinar on Wednesday, March 8th at 10am PST on how to identify your film’s niche audience and build a network of fans.

During the webinar, I’ll partner with Filmmaker.MBA instructors Christopher Rufo and Keith Ochwat to walk you through the steps of creating a network of passionate fans and evangelists for your film—from conducting research to building partnerships within your niche.

Also, my former story consulting client Christopher and his partner Keith will show you how they earned $1.5 million with their last film, Age of Champions, through direct distribution to their niche audience.

Here’s what you’ll learn in the webinar:

  • How to identify your film’s core audience
  • How to create a marketing strategy that appeals to your core audience
  • How to build a powerful fan base and community around your film
  • How to leverage your niche to build funding and distribution partnerships

Space is limited, so register now to reserve your spot.


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Documentary Seminar on Multiple Protagonists

Posted by newdoced • Feb 25th, 2017

multipleI hope you’re enjoying your weekend! Today I’m giving away module #10 of my 12-part series The Ultimate Guide to Structuring Your Documentary. Download it for free here:


You’ll learn strategies for structuring a documentary with multiple protagonists and storylines. You’ll also learn how to blend character-driven and topic-based films.

See all my online documentary seminars at:


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Overcoming Cynicism in Documentary Filmmaking

Posted by newdoced • Feb 23rd, 2017

PamTyrus-1050x700A few months ago I read a thread on Doculink about how making documentaries can lead to cynicism. One filmmaker felt the herculean effort to fund, make, and distribute a doc was, in hindsight, simply not worth it. Others argued that a labor of love pays off in the end.

I understand how artistic idealism can lead to despair, especially when making a doc drags on for years. Without funding and a clear narrative approach, what’s the point? Not to mention the cost.

And yet, every month I hear from filmmakers that we’ve worked with who tell me their success stories. I offer two examples to inspire you.

First, congratulations to our story consulting client Ronit Bezalel, whose documentary 70 Acres in Chicago had its U.S. television premiere earlier this week on PBS World. If you missed this moving character-driven documentary about Cabrini Green public housing project, you can get it here.

Ronit nurtured her dream film for twenty years! I believe the reason she never lost sight of her goal was her love for her characters, each navigating complex social justice issues. 70 Acres in Chicago will screen this Saturday at the Big Muddy Film Festival.

Like Ronit, filmmaker Pamela Tom had three story consultations with New Doc Editing to shape TYRUS, a biography that shines a spotlight on a genius at Disney, Chinese American artist Tyrus Wong.

She first met Tyrus in 1998 when she had no cash, no crew, and no clear narrative arc. But there was something stirring about this old man. As Pam tells it, fellow filmmaker Freida Lee Mock advised her to just get the interview in the can.

That was nearly two decades ago. Recently Pam emailed me that Tyrus had died at age 106, shortly after the documentary premiered. His obit appeared on the front page of the New York Times.

In post-production, Pam had encountered plenty of editorial hurdles, but she kept reworking the story until she got it right. Bucking the trend against take-down documentaries, TYRUS is an inspiring film, and it took an inspired director to pull it off. “It just goes to prove that uplifting stories will resonate with people,” she told me.

Pam’s film has won eight awards so far, and you can catch it on American Masters later this year. To inspire you, here’s an excerpt from Pam’s email to me:

“Despite it taking me nearly 17 years to finish—with many struggles, rejection and self doubt along the way—I am so grateful to have finished it in time for Tyrus to see it and enjoy so much recognition. I hope my experience gives encouragement to the many doc filmmakers among us who toil away and devote years, sometimes decades, to telling the stories they believe in. It’s a worthy cause.”

Finally, I created our Accelerated Post program so you don’t have to take decades (or even years) to finish your documentary.

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Structuring Your Documentary In Three Acts

Posted by newdoced • Feb 7th, 2017

ThreeactstructureHappy Wednesday! Today I’m giving away the best tutorial you’ll find on applying the Three Act Structure to documentary films:


We’ve all heard of the three-act structure, and screenwriters have it down to a science. But often I find that documentary filmmakers arbitrarily divide their film into three parts, and label each part an act.

Actually, each act looks very different.

According to screenwriters, Act One (about 25% of film) launches your protagonist’s quest.

Act Two (60%) shows your protagonist facing challenges on that quest.

And in Act Three (15%), we learn if they actually achieve their goal in the climax scene.

For a mind-opening overview of how to apply the three-act structure to documentary films, check out this 33-minute excerpt of my live seminar at the San Francisco Film Society. You can download it for free at:


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