Tuesday’s premiere of ABRUPT DECISION was a fantastic success! The audience was very receptive to the movie and the discussion following the film was great. No one left during the screening (which at Berlinale is amazing–people rarely stay for the entire film). The story of two men in a long term relationship that has grown cold and their struggle to find each other again really resonated with the audience. ABRUPT DECISION clearly stands apart from other gay themed films this year and I couldn’t be happier.
I have meetings with three distributors Wednesday to discuss deals, and will be also talking with a number of international festival programmers.
I haven’t had much sleep, so I’ll keep the rest of this post brief:
I went to four other films yesterday.
THE ITALIAN KEY is a fantasy about a young woman who is given a magical key to an Italian villa which talks to her. The producer told the audience the target demographic was women, but this is a children’s film aged 8-10. The dialogue was wooden, and though spoken in English, none of the actors were fluent. I walked out.
A retelling of the HINDENBURG has sold in many territories, however the script was in English and the actors were mostly German. The film had to be redubbed by English actors because the German’s accents apparently were hard to understand (and some of them were playing American characters). It felt stilted, and the script didn’t sound like conversational English. I walked out.
A musical about HOCKEY. I tried to stick with it but the song lyrics reminded me so much of a New York theater workshop production I had to bail. (And how many rhymes can you get from “ice skate?” )
ON THE STREET was an interesting documentary about Lower East Side New Yorkers’ clothing habits in the early 1980’s. I don’t know who would care outside of New York, and some of the interviews felt very self indulgent, but still it was a fast paced and interesting film. Amy Arbus recently published a coffee table book on the subject and the documentary interviews the photo subjects 25 years later.
During last weekend three industry ‘debates’ were held at the Berlin Film Market on Indie Film Finance, the Role of Sales Agents, and 3-D Filmmaking. There is now streaming video available for the seminars.
A few comments about the Independent Film Finance Debate: First off, no one was debating anything. The panel simply presented what they do and how they operate. Second, this was a discussion of independent film that works through the Hollywood film distribution system. The panelists are not talking about someone shooting with a $20K budget. In fact, the budgets for the films they’re discussing start at $8 million. Third, there was no mention of Bollywood or Nollywood. This discussion focused entirely on films made in Europe, and distributed in Europe, North America, and then marginally in Asia and South America.
Look at distribution outlets and specific targets and guesstimate how much revenue can come from each distribution outlet.
Because studios are focusing more on tentpole films it opens opportunity for indie films into the studio distribution pipeline–indies with a budget between 8 to 50 million dollars.
The ideal finance model is to use a sales agent to secure 20% financing from presale to territories, and get 20% financing from a bank loan, 20% in equity, 20% in tax incentive, and the final 20% other investment source, such as a government funder. After laying this out the speaker then stated it never actually happens this way.
Sundance and Berlinale had some bidding wars for some product and people are feeling optimistic about film sales. This is a turn around from the past several years which didn’t have very good sales.
The goal is to gather funding from many sources. Unlike the old days, funding will no longer come from one or two major players.
Make the movie in English for North America and UK sales. European countries will dub the film into their own language.
Movies can be very cultural specific. Many movies will only appeal to the culture that created the film, and may not sell well in other territories.
Get input on marketing and distribution on the project before even writing the script. Get input on casting before attaching any actors to the project.
Look for strong script. (No duh. Of course no panelist was going to say what determines a strong script other than “one that connects with the audience.” Quite frankly this is the same as saying a director doesn’t know what he/she wants till they see it. Ultimately for filmmakers, it continues to be a matter of making work that you feel passionate about in hopes it will connect with an audience.)
Be sure you have a 20 second story pitch that interests people in the project.
Market tastes change rapidly and there is no cardinal rule about what genre of film will sell.
Hollywood’s indie distributors are thinking more long term about the value of their catalog and what they want to have in their library. Which means they are behaving increasingly like their big parent studios.
Funders come from relationships with people who believe in your vision.
Pitching meetings are less effective than having a beer with someone.
Gotta run. Lots to do today, and I’m late.