What is your opinion of the current state of independent film production? Specifically, how do you feel about the quality of the indie films being made today? ^ Quality of films is always subjective. It’s like music. Everyone thinks what they are doing is phenomenal and everyone else sucks. Personally, I think the important item is that the cost of production tools continues to come down.
What is your opinion of the current state of independent film distribution? Do you feel that the distributors (both the “classics” divisions of the studios and the boutique distributors) are doing an adequate job in bringing independent films to audiences? ^ It kind of depends on where you are on the food chain. If you are producing movies in the 5mm to 10mm dollar range, as an indie you have a shot to get distributed.
You can make less expensive films and get them released theatrically if you have connections and attach a star to it.
If you scrounge up the credit you and your friends have available on your credit cards and make a movie with local talent, unless you have a movie that is incredible to everyone who watches it, you are going to have a hard time getting released theatrically.
I know with Magnolia Pictures, our distribution arm, we watch everything that comes our way. We don’t discriminate by budget or format. However, we have to be realistic. There has to be a way for us to sell it to theaters and to the moviegoing public.
Movies that can’t find a distributor have a very difficult time getting seen. There are lots of ways to make movies available, via iFilm, Netflix other websites, but driving any revenue becomes very, very difficult.
What advice would you give to filmmakers who want to get funding from HDNet Films? And are you open to unsolicited submissions or would filmmakers need to approach HDNet Films through agents, sales reps and other third parties? ^ We are open to reading scripts. My suggestion however is for filmmakers to be brutally honest with themselves. Just because you wrote it, or will direct it, doesn’t make it good. Find someone who has made movies and have them read it and give you notes.
We are also looking for unique projects. There is nothing worse than getting a submission about poker with a pitch saying that “poker is hot.” Don’t try to present us what you think is hot and currently selling tickets. Give us something that is personal, unique and different.
What type of films are you looking to fund and/or distribute? Are there particular or specific styles, genres and/or points of view which will pique your attention immediately? Or are you open for all titles? ^ We are open to anything and everything. We have done a doc on Enron, a movie called “Over the Mountains” that is about a terrorist in a sleeper cell in New York, we are in preproduction on movies about a killer grandmother and another about a group of people who wish they were paraplegics. We want unique concepts that we think we can find a market with.
The vast majority of independently produced films never get released. What professional advice (or personal advice, if you wish) can you give to filmmakers who’ve been rejected by festivals, distributors and exhibitors? ^ No one ever counts how many times you have failed. You only have to be right once. Do what you love and have fun doing it. If it hits, great, if not you had a blast along the way.
Have you had the urge to direct your own movies? ^ No. I’m a sales and marketing and technology geek. I have a good sense about what kind of small budget films can be commercially successful (relatively speaking). I will leave directing to those with talent!
Posted on June 2, 2005 in Interviews by Phil Hall
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