As I lean back in the chair with a high speed drill about to plow into my cavity filled molar, my dentist asks “have you gotten a distributor yet?” He knows the answer before I can mumble it out, hence his little smirk. This is a guy who got burned to the tune of a few million back in the 80s when someone conned him into financing an indie film. Nobody told him that distribution isn’t a sure thing. He knows better now.
In this new economy, (World 2.0 as I like to call it), nothing is guaranteed – except for one thing… a sucker is born every minute. And there is a whole industry that has sprouted over the last decade that prays off the enthusiasm and ambition of filmmakers in a brutal parasitic way. As a famous modeling agent once said to me “This is a business where many are called and few are chosen – the money to be made is not from the few, but off of the many.”
Magazines, indie film associations, product manufacturers, film festivals, consultant gurus and producer’s reps all help to promote what I call the “myth of filmmaking.” Just pick up a camera and follow your passion – make your movie, your way, right now, and finance it on your credit card if you have to. The digital revolution is here, and it’s more like an annihilation.
The democratization of film through digital media has made it so everyone can make a film. But it doesn’t mean that everyone should. And as a result there is a glut of product out there dragging prices down faster than the titanic. Combined with the global downturn, and a paradigm shift that could change the way people purchase and view movies, the market for independent films is uncertain. It is both the best of times and worst of times.
The question often asked is “can and independent filmmaker make any money?” Well, it’s always been a gamble, but in the old days, if you had a decent film, you could hope to cover your production costs from the advance your distributor would put up (though the advance was likely the only money you would ever see). Today, advances are disappearing faster than virgins on prom night – and traditional distribution may not be the holy grail that it once was.
Over the next few months I will chronicle “Spirit Camp’s” path to distribution. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ll be covering MPAA ratings, E&O insurance, clearance reports, DVD replication and fulfillment, and marketing. Hopefully it will be a useful guide for other filmmakers. In the mean time, check out Jon Reiss’ article in filmmaker magazine “How To Market Your DVD Online!”
My dentist certainly won’t be making another movie anytime soon, but I sure hope to. As I left his office with half my face numb, the last thing my dentist said to me was “let me know when you get distribution and I’ll buy you a drink.” I wonder if that includes self distribution?