Wednesday, June 2, 2010


  DAY 092 of pre-production on the movie we are filming this summer:  where does all the time go  - well - it goes by with all the work. So far - the script - storyboard - and the research on camera/camera formats/camera codecs - and - distribution requirements/paths and strategy - have eaten up all the time. That is what it takes if an actual valid distribution path is desired for your movie. If a valid path to distribution - which involves any type of theatrical run - is not your goal - this article is not for you - continue making movies my friend and following your path for what you want for your movie ;-) But if a "valid limited and/or major theatrical" distribution path is something you want - here is what I can share -  when I sat down with my distribution person - they asked me one simple question - and it's one you should ask yourself BEFORE you make your movie - what do you want - my answer

to the distributor was such - I want a limited art house theatrical run - they said - it will take a year to year and a half to gain an audience following large enough to warrant that type of investment. Now - who is going to do that - do all that work to gain an audience - not them my friend - you are.

  Making a movie and just throwing it out there may have worked five to ten years ago - but not today. Why is that - why is not making a movie enough anymore. Simple - market saturation. Just five years ago simply making a movie may have been enough to garner a look at your product by the people who control a movies path - those pesky money investing people who guard and handle distribution - not today.

  Why - well - five/ten years ago - actually making a movie was a huge financial technical money eating feat. And don't toss Robert Rod'z at me - the REASON he garnered attention was the fact I am actually stating - people were stunned he could do it for the money he did - that's why they looked at his product. Not anymore. Not today. With the ability of making a movie via computers/editing programs and cameras - now so affordable - everyone and anyone - can and is - making a movie. And while I am very happy that those tools are finally available for all those people who in the past were not able to make a movie due to lack of funds - on the flip it has created - what I call - a movie crap pool. What do I mean by that - well - 85 to 95 percent of the movies being made right now via the true indie - have-no-money-but-have-a-youtube-account-and-a-camera-and-computer - have no chance whatsoever of ever garnering a theatrical run distribution deal - for one simple reason - they don't know what they are doing or talking about - or taking seriously - the path to distribution. They are throwing together movies and tossing them out to festivals - getting in some backyard barnyard festivals - spending their money for posters and such - and then - those very same movies are sitting in their dvd players in their living room - collecting dust.

 That's not even to say that some of those movies are not even that bad - in fact - some are pretty damned good. Some - not most. And even those very rare good ones - those movies are being viewed by uncles and relatives and a few good friends - but not you and I and him and her. ( And before you jump on the - well how do you know train - because I was one of those - thought I knew how it worked ppl - had a meeting with reality - put my big boy pants on and talked with Hollywood - met with ppl who actually handle distribution - paid for a professional valid  consultation with Peter Broderick via advice I received from Ted Hope - Peter, very frankly told me how it works - and how he loved my movie - but distribution is not about how great your movie is - rather - where is the fan base?

  See - distribution is the key holder - they control the game - and while you may shout about how we need to take control of distribution - as an Indie Filmmaker - and change the playing field and so and so and on and on - here's the thing - distribution takes MONEY. It's all about the money. Big money. Valid distribution companies have to pay BIG money to get your film out to the people. That my friend takes a lot of money. A lot. Quickly here's the thing to consider - take yourself for example - post a blog - post a video on youtube - post anything - how many views can you get? 100? 1000? Maybe. Let's say you get 5000 views - real views - not computer generated views - if I were to walk down the street and take the name of your product/video/blog and ask 1000 random people about your vid/film/product - are they going to be able to name it? Will they know of it? If they don't - you have failed to do what valid distribution companies are doing - for they have to get your product in/on the minds of millions of people - they have to motivate those people to interact with your product - they have to motivate people on a mass scale to - get off the couch - out of the house - travel to your product - and PAY to see it - and/or - rent it. You try getting more than twenty people to do that. Have you? Have you seriously tried to get 100 people to take the time - for free - to comment on a blog. To click on a link to your movie trailer - and if you can't motivate just 10,000 people to do that - how in the hell are you going to get those people to pay to see your product. 

  Here's a thing to consider told to me by a top distribution consultant - the only people that are actually "possibly" going to pay to see anything you have done - are the people who actually take the time to interact with what you have out there. If people won't take the time to post a fast "great" comment - why do you think they will get in a car and travel to see your movie - or - to fill out a rental form to rent it. Something to consider filmmakers. That's what valid distribution companies have to do - get people motivated to interact with your product -  how do they do it - they spend BIG money on ads/TV/Internet/Radio/Trailers/DVDs/Magazine/Teaser promos, interviews etc - they engage creative distribution paths - etc - in hopes of bombarding the general public - gaining awareness - creating a mass desire to see your product - pay to interact with your product - getting your products name on the lips of people walking down the street. 

  Now - back to the Indie world - how does the Indie filmmaker plan on getting those distribution people to take notice of their product - out of all the 1000's of other Indie films being made - how does the Indie Filmmaker plan on getting distribution people to go - lets buy this movie and plop down tons of money and time to gain audience awareness? The next question is - why would a distribution company want to do this? Why not spend their money on a movie that has some stars in it? Would not that make their investment an easier sell - create a better return for their time and money? Wouldn't they have to spend less time and money getting the attention of a mass audience? Which is the smarter investment for them - well c'mon -  the safer bet for their investment is fairly clear - if you are being honest.

So where does all that leave us - the Indie Filmmaker -  well - leaves us here: looking at the very real huge hill we Indie Filmmakers have to see clearly - gaining the smallest of distribution attention is work. It's hard. It's tough.   Now - the path to distribution will be a lot easier if a few things are spent focused on before filming the movie. A plan for distribution must be formed and put in place.  A real plan/path - not one based on theories or hopes of getting into festivals and such - a true grounded multi-route path - one that has research and plans in place to be followed and implemented. Audience interaction must be nurtured and worked on and respected. Filmmakers must spend time engaging their audience - not just other filmmakers - for it is the audience who will support your film - not so much other filmmakers who are busy working on thier project. Now - this of course is besides the fact you must have a completed/color correction/sound that is crisp/dialog that can easily be heard.. (if dialog sound is not crystal clear - everything else is a mute point. Let me repeat that - everything else - all the best laid plans and work and research will be out the window if the audience can not clearly hear what the people in your movie is saying) ..screened and re-cut film - that has listened to it's audience filled out questionnaires - considered the comments - readjusted the movie - fixed what is not working via the audience gripes.. (you do realize even Steven f'n Speilberg does this - right. You do realize - the audience is the best wall to bounce off what and where your film is working and not working - right? I love when a director says to me - I don't care what the audience thinks - I'm making this movie right here - fine - great - have fun watching your movie at home with you friend - cause if you do not respect your audience - your audience wont respect you.) Anyway - after all that simple work of creating a completed film - because that's not really all that hard - is it lol - distribution is still a beast that must have been handled and worked on during the whole process of making your movie - or - your movie - is going onto youtube and getting around 500 views - and maybe - just maybe - John and Suzy will offer you a distribution deal that might get you into a DVD rental company in Idaho. Maybe. But not likely. 

  Lastly before I wrap up and get back to work on my pre-production - in no way do I see all this as a gloom and doom for the Indie filmmaker - actually - what I see is positives. I see that if the Indie filmmaker actually looks at what he/she is facing - the hill they have to climb - the actual reality of where and what they need to do - they can do it. They can put a plan together and create a product/movie/art that can break through to the other side - make some money - gain a following - and fund another project - with - and let me repeat this - with a lot of hard work AND a real professional distribution path laid out and followed. It's not just making a movie anymore - it's us becoming our own studio - it's making the movie/ handling Promotion and Marketing/completing all the contracts - most importantly - building an army of followers/audience - creating a need/want for your product. Creating interaction - on all levels - between the audience and your film. Because if you don't - if 700 views on your films trailer - if 24 comments on your movie blog post - if that's all you have - even if you have a great grand movie - that ain't gonna be enough to get you anything other than a viewing on your TV in your living room with a few friends talking about how great the movie is. And if that's all you want - great - but if you want more - if you want a theatrical run - even a limited one - if you want valid distribution - you better take the time to form a plan - and put that plan in motion - even if it means a year or more of pre-production distribution planning to  do so.

  Now it's time for me to get back to work on my movie - and equally important - my distribution path! ;-)

  My next meeting with my distribution company is to go over the story of the movie - what camera we are using - when we are filming - trailers - storyboard etc - it's within the the next week - yup - that's right - I'm sharing all this information with my distributor so they can help form ideas NOW - before filming - on how we can market this - gain awareness - gain an audience -  so we both can benefit from the end result - the movie itself. 

  I'm just sayin'
Oklahoma Ward


  1. Sound piece of advise! Thanks for explaining the process more for those of us who are even just lightly considering "what if I made my film myself" paths.

  2. Well - Jessica - I do hope the article is taken as a positive - not a negative - my hopes it will save a bunch of people a lot of time and money when deciding on making a movie - and remember - this is based on if one wants a theatrical run of some sort - plenty of other distribution paths out there that are valid and make money - DVD - Pay per View - online rental - all have lessor requirements of distribution planning - but all do have one very true thing to consider - to some degree they all require an audience of some sort - and the more a filmmaker helps create that audience - the easier and more profitable a film is ;-)

  3. Well written and good sense. Getting to know your audience and who they are(whoever and where ever they may be)is central to making a film. Distribution is not necessarily outside the realm of creativity.

  4. In my opinion - this is the most challenging path to overcome. There is no quick answer or solution... if a movie prop breaks - you can fix it - get a new one.. if an actor forgets a line - you can read it to them... but how do you get people to interact. It's a huge challenge that I think most don't realize. Great post here - it's great of you to put this out there and help open some other people's eyes to just what challenges indie filmmakers face!

  5. Lots of very good insight. With as fast as the film industry is changing this is info that I am sure a lot of indie filmmakers are not aware of. I know I did now know to this extent.

    It is a ways off before I am ready to make a theatrical film so your plodding along in this endeavor will be a great training tool for me. Thank you for taking the time to spell it all out for us.