GOING BIONIC: DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – READER Q&A, FROM DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION TO SELLING SHOES AND BEYOND!

Hi everyone! Thanks for stopping by the 131st edition of “Going Bionic.” I hope each and every one of you had a relaxing Veterans Day Weekend. On that note, I’d like to take a moment to honor all of our Veterans. Thank you deeply for your service, strength and commitment. As someone who cherishes his quality of life every day, I’d like to thank all Veterans for keeping all of us safe and secure.

Today I’m going to answer five questions that recently found their way to me, via phone or email. My answers below may assist you in either reinforcing or reimagining your strategy, but either way, they’re intended to help!

How does digital distribution affect my theatrical release plans?
Well, that depends on if your “theatrical plans” are your plans, or the plans of your distributor. If you have an actual theatrical distributor, and not a “so-called” theatrical outfit that is making you pay for their release costs, and if your distributor has agreed to release your film theatrically, then they will surely wait until after you grace the silver screen to unleash your film digitally. However, if you don’t have a distributor committed to releasing your film theatrically, then I wouldn’t worry about messing up any theatrical plans. Remember, theatrically released films tend to have bigger budgets, star power, and a A-list film festivals on their resume.

Will releasing digitally screw my chances of getting nominated for an Oscar?
If your film wasn’t released theatrically first, then yes it will. In order to be nominated for an Oscar, your film must have theatrical distribution be its first form of distribution and your film must screen theatrically for seven consecutive days in Los Angeles/New York, by December 31. Thus, the last day any film can be released and still qualify for that year’s Academy Awards, is December 25. Of course, your film can also qualify to be nominated by winning one of the Oscar-qualifying film festivals (Sundance, Tribeca, Nashville, and a handful of others).

If I release my movie digitally, will I disqualify it from big-ass film festivals?
Yes, you’ll most likely be disqualified if your film goes digital before it plays “big-ass” festivals. Since your treasured cinematic gem may also be disqualified from most “small-ass” festivals for “going digital” before or during your festival run, you should go onto the website of the festival(s) you’re dying to play, and check out their rules. If the rules aren’t clear, call or email the festival and ask them how your film gets affected if it undergoes a digital release before their festival. However, there is one more thing to consider: Most festivals have a rule that states they can circumvent their own rules when they want a film. While I wouldn’t count on anyone bending the rules for your film, just know that having that happen is possible.

I’ve got $84,200 from a recent inheritance. I can go to film school, or make a movie. What should I do?
If you’d like me to answer honestly about how to spend an $84,200 inheritance, I’d say don’t blow it on a shot-in-the-dark when only a handful of indie films are noticed out of about 10,000 made per year. Subsequently, if you have a buyer that guarantees a healthy profit through pre-sales, or at least a “promise to purchase” when you’re film is finished, then the investment becomes much smarter. In the event that you have no pre-sale guarantees, but the thought of “saving money” rips at your creative soul, then you may want to spend some money on film school. I’d definitely invest some green for the Masters programs at UCLA, USC, or NYU, and I’d probably spend money on Columbia University or AFI. Those are the best film schools on the planet, and getting into them will provide you with a multitude of opportunities – especially if you already have a Bachelors degree and would be going for your Masters Degree. This is because with a Masters, you can become a professor and get some financial return on your investment while you’re working on launching your career. However, if you are looking at a film school with less cache, then just making your film may be a better option. As a UCLA film school graduate, I understand the value of being trained, crafted and honed by a top film school, but I’m not sure if your investment in an average film school is worth spending your inheritance. Don’t get me wrong; there are excellent film school professors at every level, from junior college to Harvard, but the schools entrenched in Hollywood have the most worth. Just remember, it is not just what school is printed on your college degree, it’s what contacts that piece of paper affords you.

Should you choose the “I’ve got to make my movie now” option, then do yourself a favor and don’t spend all of your inheritance. Budget your film for as little as you can, and then spend as little of your inheritance as possible to make your film. Trust me, if you only have $630 of your $83,200 left, and your film flops, you’ll long for the days that your bank account showed a healthy, five-figure amount.

My girlfriend just broke up with me because I quit my job selling shoes to become a filmmaker. How do I convince her that I’m making the right move?
First and foremost, you shouldn’t try to convince your (former) girlfriend of anything, because if she would rather you spend your days feeding the soles of strangers’ feet, rather than feeding your own soul, she probably isn’t your soul mate. Of course, you did just quit a job that makes money hand over fist during a holiday season that’s projected to be the financially healthiest in at least five years, and that is a touch crazy. But if you weren’t a touch crazy, you wouldn’t be the gifted filmmaker that I’m sure you are. Just go forward with your soon-to-be-budding film career and see what transpires. Whether you win back get the woman formerly known as your better half or not, I assure you that you’ll look back on this time and be glad that things worked out the way they eventually work out.

Side Note: Twenty-three years ago, my girlfriend at the time left me when I decided to go to film school. However, 14 years later, I met my wife at the Sundance Film Festival, so it all worked out!

Okay, filmmakers. That’s what I’ve got for you today. Thank you once again for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.




Posted on November 13, 2012 in Features, Going Bionic by
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