Welcome to Just Crowdfund the $&*# Movie!, where indie moviemaker Jayce Bartok talks about the dos and don’ts of crowdfunding from the trenches of his own crowdfunding campaign. Have a question for Jayce about his movie, Tiny Dancer, or just crowdfunding in general? Ask away at .
Watching the Golden Globes last Sunday, Tiffany and I couldn’t help but analyze the seeming trend for this year’s awards season. It looks as though comfort films like Hugo, The Help, The Artist and The Descendants are what we are going to see winning the big awards this year. Is this a reflection of our need for heart-warming films in these dire economic times, or just the old story of the winning films being the ones that spent the most on marketing? A bit of both, I would imagine.
Compare Tilda Swinton’s amazing performance in We Need to Talk About Kevin, a dark indie drama directed by the amazing Lynne Ramsay and distributed by Oscilloscope Pictures, to Meryl Streep’s turn in the Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady, directed by Phyllida Lloyd and distributed by Harvey “The Punisher” Weinstein’s Weinstein Company. Both actresses and performances are beyond worthy, but who wins—and why?
I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me, but a distributor/studio will usually spend upwards of two to three times a films’ budget on marketing—or “P&A” (print and advertising)—for a successful theatrical campaign. If they’re going for an awards bid, they spend more. Let’s take a look at The Weinstein Company vs. Oscilloscope Pictures. Harvey Weinstein is known far and wide for his ability to position his films perfectly to reap glory on the red carpet. This year, he is working his magic on The Artist, which is poised to sweep everything, and he helped the phenomenal Michelle Williams snatch a Golden Globe for My Week with Marilyn.
The estimated budget of The Iron Lady, according to IMDB, is $13 million. Is “The Punisher” really spending at least twice that—$26 million—on advertising, plus another $13 million just for awards season? We Need to Talk About Kevin’s budget is smaller—an estimated $7 million—but still, I have a feeling that the relatively young Oscilloscope Pictures couldn’t, or wouldn’t, spend $21 million on a campaign for Tilda Swinton.
It’s hard to process any of this when you’re an indie moviemaker trying to raise $75,000 to finish your film. But let me stress how important it all is. I speak from experience: My film, The Cake Eaters, starred Kristen Stewart and was directed by Mary Stuart Masterson. It was made for around $2 million and was distributed by 7-57 Releasing, which producers Patrick Morris, Jesse Scolaro and Allen Bain founded specifically to release it. After an American DVD deal was secured, marketing mostly consisted of word-of-mouth buzz and the kindness of Ms. Stewart, who talked about The Cake Eaters while on press junkets for other films that had paid press tours. It played for a few weeks in theaters, mostly to stimulate DVD and TV awareness, which it was able to do. Still, I get told all the time, by very nice people: “That film should have done so much better. I mean, Kristen Stewart was in it. It was good. What happened?”
It always comes back to the amount of money you need to spend for a film to be a critical and box office success. If the producers of The Cake Eaters had had the ability to spend millions upon millions of dollars, they would have, and I’m sure our film would have gone further. How much further? It’s hard to say. It has found a life out there in spite of its small budget, but when it comes to awards season, economics is the biggest reality a moviemaker has to face.
What can Tiffany and I learn from this, when we don’t even have the money to make our films? We have to use every possible means in the social universe to build an audience early and keep them waiting… and then hope that Harvey, in some fit of nostalgia for The Red Shoes, buys Tiny Dancer!
Jayce Bartok is an actor/producer/writer/director who runs Vinyl Foote Productions from Brooklyn with his wife Tiffany. He wrote, co-produced and starred in The Cake Eaters and can currently be seen in USA’s “White Collar” and in the upcoming feature films Predisposed, opposite Melissa Leo, and Price Check, both premiering at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. To stay updated on his Tiny Dancer progress, follow @JayceBartok and @TICNYC on Twitter.