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By Hammad Zaidi | October 5, 2010

One hundred eight-eight months ago (15 years, 8 months) in a land far, far away, (Frankfurt, Germany), director, actor, composer, cinematic genius and mad scientist Jack Moik began his journey on “Nydenion,” an epic German Sci-Fi film.

Twenty months ago, Edward Stencel met “Nydenion” Executive Producer Caspar Arnhold at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival. The film was at least 18-24 months away from being finished, giving Edward the opportunity to court “Nydenion” and show Caspar how interested we were to sell their film worldwide. One year later, Edward and I met with Caspar at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival. Then, less than twenty-four hours after our first handshake, my company not only signed “Nydenion,” but a mention of our signing earned ink in Screen International.

In true Sci-Fi fashion, lets time travel to ninety-six hours ago, when Edward Stencel and I landed in Frankfurt, Germany to meet with Jack Moik, Caspar Arnhold and other ridiculously talented members of Moik’s producing and production team. Upon our arrival, I realized how close we were to Stuttgart (home of the Porsche factory). Visions of driving to Stuttgart, touring the Porsche factory and racing a new 911 around Porsche’s private track danced in my head, but Edward quickly knocked my a*s back into reality. We weren’t in Germany to play at the Porsche factory; we were there to see the (almost finished) Sci-Fi gem “Nydenion” in its entirety for the first time. Our mission was to get to know the creative geniuses behind the film, and to put all of our heads together to build a cohesive strategy for its 2011 release.

Since I’ve spent the last 20 Going Bionic articles prior to this one going over strategic methods on how to best distribute indie films (I can’t believe I’ve got 20 articles in my rear view mirror), I thought I’d to provide you a case study of a very unique indie film that I’m about to sell worldwide.

Let’s start with the basics: Jack Moik first wrote the script to “Nydenion” in 1995, and then he started creating miniatures and building sets for his epic Sci-Fi soon thereafter. It wasn’t until 1999 when “Nydenion” shot its first scene. Then, ten years, three million Euros and ten billion headaches later, they shot their last scene this year. Think about that for a second. You create a Sci-Fi script fifteen years ago. Then you spend four years making quality miniatures and building believable sets before you start filming. Then your shooting schedule takes you ten years to complete; all while you and your team have to invent software programs, special effects enhancements, and post-production techniques in order to deliver a full-fledged Sci-Fi film, on an independent budget. Talk about commitment.  In fact, I’m so blown away by what these guys were able to do; I’ve got to throw a few more wild statistics about the film your way.

Nydenion Shuttle Miniature

“Nydenion” was comprised of 1,912 shots – with 900 of the shots involving VFX compositing. Secondly, 500 of the shots are pure VFX shots, involving 3D, miniatures, matte painting and FX. If that’s not enough to explain how much time, care and general insanity this film took be completed, there were 47,194 frames needed to be Rotoscoped, frame by frame, in order to make everything look fluid and believable.

This intense schedule would be a pain to complete with a $60 million dollar budget – but these guys did it in $4 million. That’s right; they are about to complete their Sci-Fi feature film for less than the cost of a studio Sci-Fi film’s catering budget. It’s always refreshing for me to witness such amazing ability, collaboration and commitment to an independent vision. Simply put, it’s films like “Nydenion” that give me hope for the future of independent cinema. One that note, let me beam us to the next phase of this case study: strategizing to get “Nydenion” in a theater near you.

Have No Screenings Until The Film Is Really Done
The “Nydenion” think tank made their first giant step toward getting a theatrical release a few days ago, by something they didn’t do. Edward and I came to Frankfurt for what was supposed to be a showcase screening for about 200 invited guests, including buyers and reporters. But, less than forty-eight hours before the scheduled screening, the brains behind “Nydenion” pulled their screening because their film wasn’t completely finished.  So, Edward and I got a private look.

I can’t tell you how incredibly important is was for the “Nydenion” team not to show an incomplete film. I’m sure they just made themselves $1 million or more in sales, just by not screening the film.

Side Note to Filmmakers: No matter how anxious you are, or how many years (or decades for that matter) it’s taken you to complete your film, never show a buyer, a distributor or a film festival an incomplete version of your film.  All you will do is lose the buyer in seconds, show the distributor how inexperienced you are, and burn a non-flattering memory about your film into the mind of the film festival programmer.

A 2011 Copyright Is Better Than A 2010
Since “Nydenion” isn’t completed yet, it’s far smarter to take the rest of 2010 to work out all of the last-minute kinks, and then have it copyrighted in 2011. This way, the film is brand-new to buyers, distributors and film festivals alike. Trust me filmmakers: if you have an almost-finished film right now, the last thing you want to do is copyright in this year. 2010 is less than 12 weeks away from ending, so in 12 weeks, your film will be one-year old to those who matter. If you’re wondering what a 2010 copyright means to you, here’s a quick run down:

a) As of January 1, 2011, distributors and buyers will pay you less for a 2010 copyright – just like car dealers give discounts on 2010 models when the 2011’s arrive.

b) As of January 1, 2011, your film festival run will be cut at least one year short, and your film may be disqualified from several festivals for being too old to screen before it should.  Since most film festivals require films screened to be made within 12-18 months of the time of submission to the festival (some smaller ones will give you up to 24 months), the last thing you want to do is copyright an unsold film in the latter part of the year. Of course, if a distributor is buying your film with a life-changing offer, then finish your film today and sell it off. But, if not, a 2011 copyright is truly the way to go.

Original model from Nydenion

Buyers Have More Money In January Than In December
Another reason for us to help guide “Nydenion” through its final stages of completion now and wait until 2011 to copyright the film is because 99% of buyers get funded in January. Thus, they will have a lot more money to spend at the beginning of the year, as opposed to October, November or December. While I’m not saying you can’t sell your film in the fall months, I am saying that you’ll get more money for your masterpiece when buyers and distributors have their coffers lined with cash. Since “Nydenion” has $4 million dollars and 15 years of unimaginable hard work already riding on it, my job is to make sure we position “Nydenion” in its best possible light.  Thus, making sure it’s offered to buyers in 2011 and not a second before will do exactly that.

Make Buyers And Distributors See Your Film On A Screen
You can only do this if your film is made at a healthy budget, has garnered an incredible amount of publicity, and most importantly, has not been screened by anyone.  I repeat: the following rules don’t apply for micro budgeted films that have already played several film festivals. They only apply to films that have a certain production value and have never been screened.

In the case of “Nydenion,” a ridiculous amount of safety measures are in place to make sure nobody sees the film until it’s done. Of course trailers are on the Internet, but the film will not be screened in its entirety until several buyers attend a screening controlled by our team. That screening will probably take place in early 2011.

Just in case you’re wondering why we’re not sending out DVD’s to buyers, it’s because if “Nydenion” is easy to get, then it’ll no longer be a big deal. That’s why a Porsche Turbo 911 turns more heads than a Dodge Mini-van. A Porsche is harder to get.

Showcase At The Right Film Festival
With respect to “Nydenion,” we’re trying to showcase it at a major film festival in the first quarter of 2011. I know in the past I’ve said many indie films should go straight for a distribution deal because going on a long festival run will only make your film older. But in the case of “Nydenion,” getting exposure at a few key film festivals may actually help the film because it may create a following from Sci-FI fans.

Platform Theatrical Releasing
This means that you release your film on one screen, and grow it slowly week after week. This is where “Nydenion” will probably start its theatrical journey. Starting on a platform release doesn’t mean your film can’t be huge; look at “Slumdog Millionaire.” Hundreds of millions of dollars in box office and eight Oscars is nothing to sneeze at. The bottom line is whether you start your film on one screen or 4,000 screens, if it is meant to be a hit, it will be. It’s not where you start that matters; it’s where you finish.

I’m really optimistic and excited to be on the journey with “Nydenion,” and I can’t wait to see how far we can roll her out. Hopefully, with a pound of strategy and a ton of luck (every hit movie needs a lot of luck) we will be able to take “Nydenion” “to infinity and beyond!”

Thanks for lending me your eyes, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!

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  1. old sharpie says:

    That’s so much love compacted into a few hours, wow. I can’t wait to see this and to see how it takes, thanks

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