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Adventures in Self-Releasing: Wait, Making the Movie was the Easy Part?

Adventures in Self-Releasing: Wait, Making the Movie was the Easy Part?

Blog - Adventures in Self-Releasing

I thought I’d do my best to describe a typical day, what it’s been like so far self-releasing my movie and some of the things you can probably expect if you decide to go down this road.

First off, before saying anything else, know that I have cleared my plate for the next six months to a year. Last year, during the bulk of our festival run, I taught movie courses at the local university. But now this is all I’m doing.

So, how can I afford this?

Well, I live in Shreveport (not a very expensive city). I don’t have a house or apartment of my own. Sometimes I’m at my parents’ house, sometimes my fiancée’s. I raised a little money for my next movie that I’m currently using to live on. And if worse comes to worse, I’ll simply go into debt.

Anything is possible. But I don’t see how someone could self-release a movie while working another job. I can barely do it, working 16 hours a day, seven days a week. All right, so… a typical day for me. I turn on my computer, usually with a little caution, as my in-box has become a pretty daunting site. When you decide to self-release, you are likely to make a big push to get yourself and your movie out into the public eye. The more you do this, the more accessible you make yourself. And the more that happens, suddenly, the more e-mails you begin receiving.

On average, I would say I wake up to somewhere between 15 to 20 e-mails to return (and remember I went to bed at midnight and woke up at 6 a.m., so this is my slow period). I spend the next two hours or so filling up on coffee and returning all of these e-mails.

Then my day officially begins.

I’m a one-man gang right now. Well I hired a local PR firm, but they’re not returning my e-mails for me; and I hired an intern yesterday, but she doesn’t officially start for another couple of weeks.

Okay, finished my e-mails. On to the next task. And really in between all of these tasks, the inbox doesn’t stop. I’m probably going to receive an average of 15 more e-mails every hour from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.. What if I have a meeting and that takes me away for two hours? Then I come back to 30 e-mails, which in 60 more minutes is going to be 45. You get the point. That’s really the main thing I’m going to ask of the intern initially: Simply keep my inbox clean and respond to as many of these e-mails as she possibly can.

One of the main focuses of my viral push is a monthly e-mail update list I manage. I use it to tell people the next festival where the movie is screening, some of the efforts and progress I’m making to distribute the movie and any other major news that the movie has had in the last month or so. I’m working on streamlining some things right now, but as it stands, every time I receive a request from someone to join this list, I have to physically send them a response and add his or her e-mail address to my contact list. I would say on average this takes me about three to four minutes. Sometimes I make large pushes and receive lots of requests from people wanting to sign up. On these days, just adding people to the contact list can take me a couple of hours.

My next task will probably have to do with sending out DVDs. Almost every day, I have a request from a new festival to see the movie. Or a distributor. Or a foreign sales company. So I have to print up label inserts, write cover letters, Sharpie labels, head to the post office and send these off. I would say at least two more hours each day goes toward this.

In between returning e-mails and sending off DVDs, I am on the phone trying to book theaters, arrange speaking engagements, working on the trailer with my editor, talking to the post house about our video masters, putting together social events in the different markets I’m targeting, etc. And sometimes these are in-person meetings. For instance, I had one yesterday to interview my intern.

I’m a month in now and will say with great confidence that self-releasing a movie is harder than making it. I remember after I raised the money for The Last Lullaby, people would often say, “Aren’t you glad now? The hard part’s over.” I hear those lines often now. And all I can say is, “Yeah. Sure it is.”

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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