GOING BIONIC: DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – GOING BIG VS. GOING SMALL, PART 1

Hey, everyone. Welcome to “Going Bionic #155.’” I hope all you had a wonderful week. Last week was my busiest since the week my twin daughters were born. In fact, even the most gifted imaginations can’t grasp how busy my last seven days have been. Last Tuesday I flew to Kitchener in Ontario, Canada to meet with “Industry Corporation,” the video game and Multimedia Company I recently became a partner in. We spent every waking moment strategizing the release of our upcoming video games, and planning our slated film, television and music projects. It was excruciating exhausting, but damn was it fun!

Today we’re starting a new mini-series called “Going Big vs. Going Small,” designed to help filmmakers analyze the best path for their careers and films. We’re kicking this series off with the age-old battle of film vs. television/cable. So, without further adieu, let’s examine which platform is best for you and your film.

The Best Move For Your Career
While I know all of you are sure that a theatrical release is what you need for your upcoming film, “going theatrical” might not be your best career move. Simply put, telling potential investors and employers that your last film sold to television or cable is going to get you further than telling them it flopped theatrically. While I’m not saying your film will flop, consider the following; most films, even the heavily funded ones, don’t work theatrically. Thus, if your film is smaller in nature, television or cable may be a better home for it. Furthermore, many filmmakers hold an incredible amount of value in saying their picture was released theatrically. But, that value only becomes “incredible,” if your film is an incredible hit theatrically. So please consider what’s best for your career; meaning a sure sale to television or cable is a better move.

The Best Move For Your Film
If your film is empowered with a few A-list stars, and a ten-figure advertising budget, then you should seek a theatrical release. However, if your celluloid dream is cast with smaller actors and a budget to match, then your film will do better on a smaller screen. Subsequently, it’ll probably also look better on a small screen. This is because indie films have scenes and visual backdrops that are smaller in nature and those are less of a “visually stimulating” experience. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with this. Indie films have indie budgets and indie budgets usually create indie visuals.

The Best Move For Your Investors
Whether your film is big or small, whether it’s destined for 3,000 theatrical screens all across North America, or a 3:00 AM screening on some super-tiny cable station that not even you heard of before they contacted you about your film, all that investors want is to see any part of their money again. Just to be clear, most investors assume they’re going to lose their money the second they invest in an independent film. Thus, any money they get back is almost seen as “money earned.” Furthermore, should your investors break even on their investment, they will not only see it as a victory, but they will most likely invest in a future project of yours. Of course, should they ever earn a profit from your film, you’ll have an investor for life. Hence, you should consider your investors when you’re deciding how and where to distribute your film; especially if it’s your first film.

When a Theatrical Release Is Great Idea
When your production and P&A budget is greater than the GNP of a small country. Also, when your film earns critical acclaim from major publications like the New York Times, or when it captures Oscar buzz. Short of one of those highly coveted situations, your film is better off on the small screen.

When a Theatrical Release is a Great Mistake
When either you, or your distributor doesn’t have enough money to compete in the theatrical market. Remember, theatrical releases are very expensive, and if the film doesn’t work, you’ll lose your shirt, pants, and everything else.

When A TV/Cable Release is a Great Idea
When most, or all your budget can be recouped from TV and cable deals, then you should grab those deals. Remember, making a film that sells to the small screen when it’s new, is far more valuable than failing to sell the film to the big screen for so long, that it grows too old the TV/cable outlets to want it.

When a TV/Cable Release is a Great Mistake
When you have a film that is big enough to go theatrical on a wide scale. If your film has the cast, genre, production budget and advertising budget to support a major release, then you should never sell your film to television or cable before you release it theatrically. Why? Because a) people won’t pay $12-$14 dollars for a film that they can see for free on TV/cable, and b) releasing on any media before your film is released theatrically will disqualify you for Oscar consideration.

Side Note: Don’t worry; if your indie film is Oscar worthy, your distributor will release it on a few theatrical screens before your TV/cable premiere,  in order to qualify for the Academy Awards.

Okay, filmmakers. That’s what I have for you on this last day of April, 2013. Once again, I thank you for lending me your eyes and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal..




Posted on April 30, 2013 in Features, Going Bionic by
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