When can I ditch this damn movie?
This question actually comes from a guy who read my book and was on the festival circuit with his feature for WAY TOO LONG. Now what does that mean exactly, “TOO LONG”? Well, in his case, he had made a feature film that all the festivals loved, and it had gotten into so many that he spent nearly two years traveling the world with it, doing Q & As, meeting filmmakers and festivals, and basically just having a drunken and darkly lit tour of the planet. What did not happen was a sale of this film. So he figured, why not keep it on the circuit till someone buys it? As time went on though, he realized his film had passed its Sell By Date and in the end he was dragging around a film that no one was going to distribute on a decent scale. He was going to have to distribute it himself, but he also had already burnt out his own audience by screening the film everywhere already.
So when should he have gotten off the circuit exactly? Probably after the first major festivals, where he collected the most press, and then he should’ve either figured out a way to distribute the film himself, or at the very least, taken it off the market, made another screening round with the few remaining major distributors and started working on his next film. The way it ended up, at the end of two years he had a film that had been screened everywhere, and didn’t have any new projects. Continuing to stay on the circuit was definitely getting his name out there, and getting his film press, but then he was unable to use it to market a new project because by the time he’d made another film again, people had forgotten.
Another scenario is a friend who made a film that everyone seemed to enjoy, but it never got into any major film festivals. He ended up distributing the film himself, and spending years doing that, he finished a second film in the process but continued to distribute the first film instead of focusing on making the second film’s chances on the circuit.
I meet filmmakers all year who should’ve let go of their films long ago. Here is a list of things to consider before you drag your stuff to another film festival, another screening, or continue to promote:
- Are people sick of you on the circuit? (I find that people are pretty sick of me on the circuit and I’m usually on the jury.)
- Have you already done a major festival, and gotten the best press you can get out of that festival?
- Is your film dated? Not just on IMDB, which you should hold out on registering as long as humanly possible, but has the topic of your film already passed its point of interest?
- Have you already divorced one of the leads in the film and now you’ll be forced to drag the film around with him? (Fine, this maybe only applies to me.)
- Have you gotten incredibly fat from free food and drinks and from sitting in too many screening rooms for hours on end? (No, that doesn’t apply to me, shut up.)
- Is there another film on the circuit now that is just like yours?
- Has a full calendar year passed?
- Has the circuit been keeping you from making your next film or writing your next script?
- Has every distributor already said no to your film at least once?
- Is it possible that there’s a good time coming up to self-distribute your film? An event or date that means something to your film that you can use for publicity and as a way to get sales?
- Are you sick of your film? (Sometimes it’s hard to promote your film if you hate it’s guts.)
- Does your film suck? (If no one wants to screen it, this is potentially true and painful but we all have to admit that not all of our films can be phenomenal perfection.) (Sob.)
All that being said, have fun out there while you can get it!