Hi everybody! I hope you all enjoyed a great Labor Day Weekend. I also hope you didn’t spend your precious time (and money) watching the new weekend releases, because Labor Day Weekend is historically infamous for premiering some of the worst major releases of the year. In any case, I hope you took advantage of your time off.
Two weeks ago our topic was “Distributing Without Distributors.” Since then, I’ve received several emails about it, so I today we’re going to explore more tactics on how to distribute without a distributor. As a distributor, I think it’s much smarter to utilize the services of “one of us,” if your film cost more than the average new car to make. But, if you’re committed to “going solo,” then here’s how to do it:
Get Real Sales Projections From Companies You Want To Go With
The first thing to figure out is how much money various distribution models usually earn small self-distributed films. These include sales via iTunes, DVD’s, Red Box, and Netflix. However, companies like Apple, Red Box and Netflix won’t tell you how much money a non-star studded, self released film makes from their distribution services. Of course, you can try Googling your question, which may provide you with some answers.
The other tactic you can take is to contact the companies in question and tell them you’re doing a an educational report on their company. You’ll be amazed as to how much nicer they will be to you. In fact, in many cases, they’ll give you their company’s “annual report,” which is the literature distributed to their shareholders. The annual report is where many of your questions may be answered. In the event you can’t get your hands or eyes on an annual report, then try to get someone to answer “just three questions” for you. Should they grant your wish, make sure your three questions are really damn good, and don’t waste your first question on something like, “how are you doing today.” Once you hear the word “go,” ask your questions, get your answers and get off the phone before they start asking more about you and what your report is for. Do not tell them you’re a filmmaker. You will get much further by saying you’re going a report for school. Remember, students are non-threatening, but filmmakers are threatening to most people.
Extract Information From Other Filmmakers
Ask filmmakers out their self-distribution experience, but make sure they clarify the monetary aspect of their answers. For example:
- If the filmmaker claims they earned $20,000, ask them if that $20,000 is over and above their budget and all distribution and marketing costs? If so, then you should buy them lunch and pick their brain on how they succeeded with an independent release.
- If their $20,000 earned was “gross,” which turned into $11,000 after expenses and fees, and their film cost $50,000 to make, then they lost $39,000 ($50,000 cost-$11,000 earned = $39,000 lost).
- If the filmmaker claims to have made $20,000, but won’t discuss it, then they probably are still bitter about getting screwed out several thousand dollars. Maybe they are owed $20,000 but have only recouped $1,316.80 (hell, I’d be bitter too!)
- Of course, maybe they made lots of cash and they simply choose not to discuss it. That’s also a valid possibility.
Tally and Average Your Projections
Once you get your hands on the projections from the companies like Apple, Netflix and Red Box, then focus on the lower end of their projections. I know how enticing it is to look at the high-end of projections, and if you achieve them, then feel free to do cartwheels in front of everyone who ever doubted you. But, my job is keeping you safe, and so eyeing the lower end of financial projections is a much smarter move when calculating what you can expect to make.
Next, total up the financial earnings that filmmakers gave you and divide that total by the number of filmmakers you asked, in order to get an average. Lastly, consider subtracting at least 25% from your “average,” (more realistically, subtract 50%). Only then can you get a real number.
Create Your Budget From Your Lowest Average Projections
This is the easiest part of the process. All you have to do here is take the lowest projected earnings for your film, and make sure your film’s budget is lower then that number. This way, you’ll stay (reasonably) financially safe while you make your motion picture.
Side Note: I’m only asking you to use your film’s lowest projected earnings to keep you safe. Thus, I’m not being negative – just cautious. If you project earnings from the lowest numbers, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised when your film goes through the roof and launches you into America’s highest tax bracket (assuming you’re not already there).
Okay people. That’s it for today. Thanks again for lending me your eyes, and I’d love to borrow them again next Tuesday! I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.