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. Here, Goodman offers his first entry in his ongoing blog for MovieMaker.com, “Adventures in Self-Releasing.”
Last Friday, I finally did it. I put together an e-mail for my 48 investors, saying, “As I mentioned in our last couple of updates, I think it will soon be time for us to transition from the world of film festivals to some real distribution for our film. That said, I am pleased to announce I have made some decisions that will push us into the next phase of this process. Beginning in May, we will start a small theatrical release of our film.”
It had been almost a year since I first started thinking about taking The Last Lullaby out ourselves. I didn’t want to do it. In fact, I kept waiting for that better offer to come around. For someone to convince me that it was all a bad joke. That the world of independent film distribution had not changed. But it has. For most of us.
Gone, as far as I can tell, are the big advances. Gone, it seems, is the buying frenzy at certain festivals. It’s no longer, make an independent film and hope to hit the jackpot. Tripling, quadrupling your money right out of the gate. Now, instead, it’s I’ve made a film and if you’re lucky, someone is offering you five to 10 percent of your costs up front.
And that might be the only money you ever see.
Now I guess (I mean this is my first feature, so excuse me if there is some ignorance) I always knew that making movies was an unusually risky business. But I thought that meant you’re going to work seven days a week for several years, probably go into debt and then, when you’re done, you may or may not turn a profit.
I didn’t realize that meant you’re going to work seven days a week and perhaps (in fact there’s a better chance than not of this happening) someone is going to pay you a small portion of what you put into the work.
In some ways, it’s like you working a job and at the end of the year, your boss coming around and saying, “Good job. I’m really happy to have you. Let’s see you make $25 per hour. You worked 2,000 hours. Here’s $5,000 (when really you’ve earned $50,000.) Happy New Year!”
Now, if you’re like me, you’re probably reading this and saying to yourself, “Well this is just the airing out of some disgruntled moviemaker. That won’t happen to me.”
Please know though that my goal in writing this is not to air anything out, but hopefully to give people some useful firsthand information. That way, we can all continue a dialogue together in hopes of finding better ways to get our films out into the world. And perhaps stop this “culture of abuse”, as Lance Hammer of Ballast describes the current world of independent film distribution.
From this point forward, every now and then, I’ll be writing about my experiences in the world of self-releasing. I’m glad I’m taking this path. It’s a roll of the dice. And, honestly, I don’t know if it will work or not.
But what I do know is that the old ways of doing things isn’t working for me. I’m sorry to say, but that advance of five percent of my costs just isn’t getting me very excited.