One of the things I find really knocks the wind out of first time feature filmmakers is the conundrum...the cruel irony...the mystery...the realities of DISTRIBUTION. That's right the "D" word.
At a minimum, the whole point is to get people to see your movie and get your money back to make another film. And if you've got investors involved in your project- it's no longer a choice, but a responsibility. Like everything else in low-budget filmmaking, you've gotta be familiar with all your optioins, develop a realistic plan, then come up with Plans B, C, D and E.
Having a vision is good. Actually raising the money to execute that vision is great. Having a vision that you've actually managed to capture in a completed feature film is wonderful. But spending 2-5 years doing all of the above while racking up massive debt and ultimately not having an audience see your movie and help recoup the costs - now that just sucks.
Nevertheless, that reality is the exact scenario that a majority of indie filmmakers ultimately find themselves in and it's enough to permanently take the wind out of their filmmaking sails. Sure there's still the occassional Cinderella stories of first-time indie filmmaker's whose films get picked up by one of the major studios and then go on to mainstream success.
However, the reality of indie film distibution is usually not that easy or simple. There are a dozen different ways to break it down: theatrical, domestic territories, foreign territories, cable, pay-per-view, DVD, cell phone, PSP, network tv...on and on.
Not only that, but the world of distribution is changing by the week as Web 2.0 continues to evolve, new means of digital distribution such as digital projection in theaters and new set-top boxes change the game, and innovative indie filmmakers are challenging and rewriting the ditribution models of the film and tv industry.
So how can you actually learn the distribution game and keep up with it's rapid evolution? I've got three great resources to recommend from distribution guru, Stacey Parks. For a solid overview and understanding of the distribution check out Stacey's book, The Insider's Guide to Independent Film Distribution. And to continue your distribution studies where that leaves off, you can sign up to her distribution newsletter and premium members site, FilmSpecific.com .
There are plenty of general filmmaking gurus, but there really is a scarcity of distribution gurus out there that can help you with solid advice to form a realistic distribution plan, avoid get ripped off or look like a complete idiot when it's time to talk to a distribution company.
Even if you plan to self-distribute, there are a number of models and emerging trends that Stacey keeps her fingers on the pulse of. And everthing in the world of distribution that she observes from Sundance to studio restructuring, she reports back to FilmSpecific members regularly. Want to know what's selling at Cannes this year? Want to know what HBO wants next season? Stacey reports it as it's happening and gives her insider perspective and advice as an active veteran of the distribution business.
If you want to get Stacey's sage advice on distribution stop by and see her in-person this Wednesday for a FREE Film Distribution Clinic and Booksigning at the Barnes and Nobles in Tribeca at 97 Warren St. in New York City at 7pm. (I also plan to be there myself expanding my own guerrilla education.)
Look around the web for yourself, but I'm telling you that quality, comprehensive, up-to-date info for filmmakers focused just on the indie distribution is very hard to come by. I genuinely think FilmSpecific.com is a very unique filmmaker resource. If anyone out there has other good sources for distribution info to suggest, please email them to me or feel free to comment below to share with all.
That's all for today, kids. See you at the clinic.