Fools by Martin Walker

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

DIY theatrical and filmmaking sustainability

DIY theatrical and filmmaking sustainability - how I released HEAD TRAUMA by Lance Weiler

The thing I find most interesting after having gone through the first couple windows of release is how broken the system is. Now I know you're probably saying no shit but I think we're at a very interesting crossroads. When something is damaged it provides new opportunities but the difficult part is identifying them. Often it seems that going in a totally different direction is an answer OR you can work the current system to your advantage. For example a theatrical release with no cash, no distributor, no booker and no publicist seems insane - and it is in the sense that it's an insane amount of work BUT it is possible.

I took on a hybrid model with the release of my newest film HEAD TRAUMA. Had a world premiere at the LA Film Fest and used it as a springboard to a platform release for HT. In other words used it to announce the project and a few weeks after was in theaters across the country. The biggest driving force for a compressed release was to maximize my limited resources and push all the press and word of mouth towards monetizing the movie. I hit 17 screens across the country by doing a bootstrapped release.

I called a number of bookers / service companies to help me with my theatrical release. I quickly discovered that there was NO way that I could afford it. So I decided to create my own model that would require little to no seed money. Here's how I released my newest feature HEAD TRAUMA on 17 screens across the country.

Here's the breakdown:

Travel, lodging and some food was offset with speaking engagements at various universities and film societies. This also provided free transportation and free meals. I ended up making about $4,500 in speaking fees.

I took $1,200 from a pre-theatrical speaking engagement and applied it towards making 27 x 40 posters. I knew from past experience that posters provide a great profit margin. I got them made for a $1.40 each and then sold them for 10 to 15 dollars. To date I've sold about 300 posters and pulled in about $3,500

When it came to the screenings I found sponsors for a number of weekly city paper ads for the cities that I felt need some extra promotion. And the rest of the promotion was done via social networking sites and my mailing list / fan base from my first film. I targeted independent theaters and cold called BUT I had a pitch ready - one that explained who my audience was and how I intended to reach them. I struck a favored nations deal with all the theaters - a 50/50 split because I didn't have the cash to four wall. And I did all my own press for the release.

The main goal for the theatrical was to help with DVD sales into retail and rental outlets. My hope was to use the theatrical release as hook for a national story, to get reviews and to prevent HT from being ghettoized as a straight to video release.

Well I got a ton of press, a lot of reviews and I ended up grossing close to 15,000 dollars. I took about half of my cut of the box office and put it into online advertising for the DVD release. I also worked out deals for a number of print ads in horror publications like Rue Morgue and Fangoria.

And so far so good - the DVD just hit retail and rental outlets nationwide. In fact this coming weekend Best Buy will be doing a special national promotion. The movie can be found at Barns & Noble, Borders, Circuit City in addition to other retail outlets. Its on Netfilx and in certain Hollywood Video and Blockbuster locations. It is also in independent video stores and can be found on various online outlets such as Amazon etc.

So for me theatrical made sense, I actually made some money AND I still own the rights to my work.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Thank You For The Music

There are very few things that keep my impatience from getting the best/worst of me. I like to get things done quickly and efficiently. The lack of funds that have kept this film from getting done will be magically appearing thanks to Christine sacrificing her bohemian lifestyle. So we will be able to start production on Virgin early in the New Year.

I’ve never doubted that we will get this film done. Christine and I have kept this project alive in our imagination, in our hopes and our dreams. But, it’s been very hard waiting for Love 10 to 1 to happen. I decided to work on other people’s projects and develop a few of my own. It pays off to have a few things cooking because right now it looks like I’ll be busy with a MoviesByWomen project that we’ve been trying to get off the ground for the last year.

Love 10 to 1 looks very promising for early 2007, and I’ve been hired to write and direct an episode for an Angel Muniz project (he’s the Dominican Spielberg).

So I’m grateful and thankful for everything going on right now, but I’m most grateful for all the music that has enriched my life, from classical to opera to pop to my most loved of all Rock (all kinds, hard rock, easy rock, metal, hair metal, pop rock, power ballad, sour, dour rock – I just made that one up, punk, classic rock – you get the picture). Music really drives my life and aids my creativity.

Whenever I feel hopeless about this film all I have to do to regain my confidence and enthusiasm is listen to some of the music that’s been kindly donated by local, talented musicians. I made a CD of songs from these artists for when I need inspiration. I love playing this CD, it’s my dream soundtrack for Californication.

This morning I played my Californication soundtrack which consists of music from
The Fabulous Miss Wendy, Jason Keeton (J.K. Music) & Crash Davis.

Wendy’s music will be used for the band Dirty Virgin in Californication. Crash Davis and J.K. Music will be used as the Shane/Dustin theme songs. I haven’t made up my mind about which Crash Davis song to use yet (they have so many great ones) and Love Song Yo from J.K. Music will be the Dustin/Shane montage song. When I hear these songs I can envision my whole movie playing. It’s such a great feeling.

Check them out and show them some love….

MySpace URL:
MySpace URL:
MySpace URL:


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Features Directed by Women at AFI Fest 2006 - November 1st - 12

Features Directed by Women at AFI Fest 2006 - November 1st - 12

AIR GUITAR NATION Documentary. DIR Alexandra Lipsitz PROD, Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz, Anna Barber. USA.

COME EARLY MORNING Cast: Ashley Judd, Jeffrey Donovan, Tim Blake Nelson, Diane Ladd, Stacey Keach. DIR/SCR Joey Lauren Adams PROD Julie Yorn, Holly Wiersma, Ed Bass. USA.

THE DEAD GIRL (World Premiere) Cast: Josh Brolin, Rose Byrne, Toni Collette, James Franco, Marcia Gay Harden, Mary Beth Hurt, Brittany Murphy, Giovanni Ribisi, Mary Steenburgen, Kerry Washington, Piper Laurie. DIR/SCR Karen Moncrieff, PROD Henry Winterstern, Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi. USA.

FISSURES (World Premiere) Cast: Emilie Dequenne, Ludmila Mikaël, Mathieu Demy, Jacques Spiesser. DIR/SCR Alanté Kavaïté PROD Antoine Simkine. France.

GRBAVICA (North American Premiere) Cast: Mirjana Karanovic, Luna Mijovic, Leon Lucev, Kenan Catic, Jasna Ornela Berry DIR/SCR Jasmila Îbaniç PROD Barbara Albert, Damir Ibrahimoviç, Bruno Wagner. Bosnia-Herzegovina/Austria/Germany/Croatia.

UNDER THE ICE (US Premiere) Cast: Bibiana Beglau, Sandra Borgmann, Dirk Borchardt, Adreian Wahlen, Nicole Merced Muller, Barbara Focke, Thorsten Merten, Susanne Lothar. DIR Aelrun Goette SCR Thomas Stiller PROD Ernest Ludwig Ganzert, Milena Maitz. Germany.

BLINDSIGHT (US Premiere) DIR Lucy Walker. PROD Sybill Robson Orr. UK/Tibet.

MOTHERLAND AFGHANISTAN (World Premiere) DIR Sedika Mojadidi. PROD Jenny Raskin, Catherine Gund, Sedika Mojadidi. USA.

AFTER THE WEDDING Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Rolf Lassgård. DIR Susanne Bier. SCR Ander Thomas Jensen. PROD Sisse Graum Jørgensen. Denmark.

THE LAST DAYS OF YASSER ARAFAT (North American Premiere) Documentary. DIR/SCR/PROD Sherine Salama. Australia.

SOAP Cast: Trine Dyrholm, David Dencik, Frank Thiel, Elsebeth Steentoft. DIR Pernille Fischer Christensen. SCR Kim Fupz Aakeson. PROD Lars Bredo Rahbek. Denmark.

LIFE AFTER TOMORROW Documentary featuring: Julie Stevens, Sarah Jessica Parker, Martha Byrne, Allison Smith, Danielle Brisebois. DIR/PROD, Julie Stevens, Gil Cates, Jr.

STEPHANIE DALEY Cast: Tilda Swinton, Amber Tamblyn, Timothy Hutton, Denis O'Hare, Melissa Leo, Jim Gaffigan. DIR/SCR Hilary Brougher, PROD Jen Roskind, Samara Koffler, Lynette Howell.

ANTONIA (US Premiere) Cast: Negra Li, Leilah Moreno, Cindy, Quelynah, Thaíde. DIR Tata Amaral, SCR Roberto Moreira, Tata Amaral, PROD Geórgia Costa Araújo, Tata Amaral. Brazil. HOW MUCH FURTHER (US Premiere) Cast: Cecilia Vallejo, Tania Martinez, Pancho Aguirre, Fausto Mino. DIR/SCR Tania Hermida, PROD Mary Palacios, Gervasio Iglesias, Tania Hermida. Ecuador.

YOUR LIFE IN 65' (North American Premiere) Cast: Javier Pereira, Marc Rodriguez, Oriol Vila, Tamara Arias, Nuria Gago, Irene Montala. DIR Maria Ripoll, SCR Albert Espinosa, PROD Francisco Ramos, Marta Esteban. Spain/Argentina/Italy.

HOW MUCH FURTHER (US Premiere) Cast: Cecilia Vallejo, Tania Martinez, Pancho Aguirre, Fausto Mino. DIR/SCR Tania Hermida, PROD Mary Palacios, Gervasio Iglesias, Tania Hermida. Ecuador.

Check them out,


From: FILMMAKER BLOG: Jeremy Coon (producer, "Napoleon Dynamite")

Based on my observations, the biggest mistake independent filmmakers make is not having a realistic strategy for the sale and distribution of their film. Plenty focus on raising money and the many physical aspects of producing their film, which are all extremely important, but they don't give enough thought to how they will present their film to the marketplace. Saying that your plan is to get into Sundance and score a distribution deal does not constitute a realistic plan, because that's what everyone says and the sobering truth is that will only be true for maybe a dozen films in any given year. We were lucky enough to have that happen on NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, but we did our homework and had contingency plans if Sundance didn't work out. The selling of a film is a very complex ordeal that involves processing a lot of information and you're competing against literally thousands of other films to catch a distributor's attention. That's the bad news. The good news is that it's not rocket science and the fact that you're reading this and attending this forum means that you're already far ahead of the curve simply by learning more about it.

Here some things that I've learned:

1. MAKE THE BEST FILM YOU CAN. This is totally obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people lose sight of that. You need to make something that's worth buying before you can sell it.

2. FILM FESTIVALS. The best way to present your film is usually on the festival circuit especially if you're a new undiscovered filmmaker. You should attend whatever festivals you can because they are fun and you can learn a lot by just watching and getting use to the hectic environment. Look at what film festivals you would like to attend and make a priority list based on the submission deadlines. The big acquisition festivals are obviously Toronto, Sundance, and SXSW, but there are many other awesome ones. Use your list as a checklist so that if you don't get into Sundance, you've already thought about what your plan B,C, D, etc is.

3. ASSEMBLE A TEAM. You should never sell your film yourself. Do yourself a favor and score a producer's rep and a lawyer. There are several top reps around town and they are constantly looking for projects. If you get accepted into Sundance, I guarantee that they'll be calling you constantly. They should be purely commission based (around 10%) and a good rep will never ask for money upfront. A publicist is also important only if you're in one of the best festivals so that your film is not lost in the shuffle.

4. SCREEN YOUR FILM VERY SELECTIVELY. The biggest ace that you have as an independent filmmaker is that you can largely control who sees your film and when. It's human nature that people want something more when they can't have it. Use this to your advantage. Don't let distributors see the film before it premieres. Tell them that it won't be completed until just before its premiere. We did this out of necessity on NAPOLEON DYNAMITE and it worked to very much to our advantage. The base case scenario is to show to the film to a room full of different distributors for the first time at once and forcing them to act quickly or risk losing it to someone else.

5. DON'T OVERHYPE. Your first instinct is probably to tell everyone who will listen about how awesome your film is, but you shouldn't. If you just hype without a plan it will likely backfire on you. This town is all about expectations and word of mouth travels fast and by the time your film actually screens people might have such high expectations that any film would be a disappointment. Your goal should be to set the lowest possible expectations, but still get the right distributors' butts in your screening.

6. TIME IS USUALLY NOT ON YOUR SIDE. If you're lucky and you get two or more distributors fighting for your film, you usually should not wait too long to make a decision or get too greedy. As quickly as a bidding war heats up, it can die out even quicker. Every situation is different, but the old cliché of strike while the iron is hot is often the way to go.

There's plenty more advice (and probably better) out there and these are just some thoughts that stick out to me at the moment. The best advice I can give is just to educate yourself the as much as you can on this topic and talk to as many people as you can with any experience in selling and releasing films. This forum should be a great foundation, so don't waste it. You'll have personal access to many industry players that would usually be next to impossible to get a meeting with. There's nothing better than face time to get your foot in the door. Like I said earlier, the fact that you're already thinking seriously about a plan of how to sell your film puts you in a better place than a lot of indie filmmakers.

About The Three Shorts

Christine Le wrote and directed the 1st story Love 10 to 1.
The first story explores the life of a 29-year-old virgin, Jenny, who desperately wants to lose her virginity before her 30th birthday. As she encounters one loser after another on dates, Jenny pines after her boss, Dustin. While at her grandmother’s retirement home, Jenny learns a powerful lesson from her grandmother about sex and the meaning of life.

Christine Le (right) directs Shireen Nomura Mui (Jenny) & Justin Klosky (Jim).

Lucy Rodriguez wrote and directed Love Song.
The second story revolves around Shane, the lead singer of the L.A. rock band, Dirty Virgin. Shane has her pick of admirers but it’s her roommate Dustin she wants to be with. Shane confesses her feelings on Jackie and Jared’s show but when Dustin meets Cali, Shane’s shot at love starts to dwindle. With Dirty Virgin about to embark on a world tour, will Dustin realize that he’s the object of Shane’s affections? Will they risk their friendship to give this Love Song a chance?

Lucy Rodriguez & David Villar (Dustin)

Laura Somers wrote and directed Diving Lessons.
The final story picks up where Love 10 to 1 left off, but from the perspective of Jim, the guitarist of Dirty Virgin. Jim sees Jenny at a swimming pool, trying desperately to overcome her fear of diving. In fact, he finds out that she’s making a list of everything that she’s afraid of and trying to overcome them, one by one. He is instantly smitten and tries to convince her that he’s not just a rock star who ‘loves ‘em and leaves ‘em’. Can a rock star find love with a virgin?

Shireen Nomura-Mui, Laura Somers & Justin Klosky

Leah Anova is the Director of Photography for Love 10 to 1 & Diving Lessons.

Additional Cinematography on Diving Lessons by Erik Forsell

Matthew Boyd is the Director of Photography for Love Song.