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Adventures In Self-Releasing: Five Important Lessons

Adventures In Self-Releasing: Five Important Lessons

Blog - Adventures in Self-Releasing

I read once that Francis Ford Coppola said, “Every time you make a movie, you’re jumping off a cliff.” That’s definitely been true in my experience. And if you’re jumping off a cliff making a movie, you’re jumping off Mount Everest trying to take it out yourself.

Had another panic attack last night. One of those inevitable moments when all I do is think about the “what ifs” and realize, “Wow, I’m really putting my neck on the line here.” Had a big one the day before our shoot that came with vomiting. Last night it was only racing thoughts, headaches and shortness of breath. Guess I’m making progress. One of the worst things, or most exciting depending on the kind of person you are (I usually fall in the former category), about all of this is the lack of information. I have yet to find a good book to follow or an exact precedent that I can use for my movie.

So much of my model has come from speaking to and reading about producers who have already taken this path. There are some people out there who I consider really inspiring (Joshua Zeman, Marc Rosenbush, Peter Broderick, Ted Hope, to name but a few). Check into the work these guys are doing because in my opinion, these are the real mavericks.

But I digress. I want to mention some things I’m learning that I hope are helpful to others who are seriously considering the self-release route:

1. MPAA. Want your movie to play outside of the art house circuit? Chances are you will need to pay to have it rated. Here’s the link if you want to see how that works (http://www.mpaa.org/CARASubmittalPaperwork8.doc). It is not cheap.

2. Box office split or four wall. These are the two basic arrangements you are likely to face. In the first scenario, box office split, you will simply share a certain percentage of the box office with the theater owner. In the second scenario, you will pay an upfront fee basically to rent the theater. Then, in return, you will receive a share of the box office, usually much higher than in the box office split scenario.

3. Paid ads. Depending on the market, some theaters will obligate you to spend a certain amount on advertising your film if you want them to show it. I’m trying to avoid these places wherever I can.

4. DVD window. Just got off the phone with one of the larger theater chains and they want to obligate me to a four month window, which means in theory I can’t sell DVDs for four months after playing there. But it is part of my hope and plan perhaps to sell DVDs during this whole theatrical run. What to do?

5. Booking a theater. Convincing a theater owner to take a chance on you is just like convincing a potential investor to give you money for your movie: You have to sell them. The thing they are most interested in knowing is how you plan to promote the movie in their area and who your audience is.

Many people say they have no interest in going the self-release route; that they just want to move forward and make their next movie. I totally understand and respect this. My feeling, though, at this point is that the more a moviemaker today can understand financing, production and distribution, the more independent and better off they will be in the future.

It would be great, as a moviemaker, to do nothing but make movies. I would love for people to line up and give me money to make my movies when and how I want to make them. And when they are done, I would love for someone to take them off my hands, knowing with confidence that the movie will get out to the rest of the world. But unfortunately, my friends, the movie landscape for 99.999 percent of us in 2009 just isn’t working this way.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of The Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors.

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