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The Myth of the Seven Thousand Dollar Movie. It was written by producers Mary Jane Skalski (Win Win) and Anthony Bregman (Our Idiot Brother), who back then were members of the New York production company Good Machine. They wrote: “If you’re like most low-budget filmmakers, the word deliverables probably ranks somewhere at the very bottom of your List of Major Concerns, below ‘Outline my next film’ and above ‘Pay back Uncle Mort’s $1,000 loan.’ And rightly so; when you’re consumed with worries about scraping together cash to buy stock or about getting through the mix before the festival screening, what’s the point of worrying about abstract future concerns like E&O Insurance, Chain of Title documentation, and internegative checkprints?”The more things change, the more they stay the same. Back in 1994, after we published a series of articles on no-budget movies like El Mariachi and Clerks, we felt morally compelled to publish a more sober follow-up,
So, it’s almost 20 years later, and what did I spend yesterday talking about at the IFP Narrative Lab? Deliverables. Just after producer Peter Phok came in to walk our group through post-production budgeting, a process that has been transformed by the advent of digital technology, post-supervisor and director Chris Kenneally came to explain what makes up a delivery schedule. What was on it? E&O Insurance. Chain of Title documentation. Internegative checkprints.
In other words, as much as the film business has changed, it’s just as difficult -- and even more expensive -- to deliver a film to a major distributor. So, yes, as you read about microbudget films costing $10,000 or $50,000 or $100,000, know that if they’re bought by an industry distributor the producers will have spent another $100,000 and three months of their time to create and pay for all these elements they probably didn’t create during post.
For more on this, read Anthony and Mary Jane’s piece. Most of it is still relevant. And also consider a few things that Chris and I talked about it yesterday.
1. Start your delivery during production -- particularly your legal delivery. Make sure you have contracts for everyone you’ll put in your credits. Especially make sure you paper deals made with your friends. Your co-writer may be your best friend from kindergarten, but don’t wait until after your film sells to define the terms of your relationship. Also, if you have potential clearance issues in your film -- logos, movie clips, life rights issues, music, etc. -- make sure you have your contracts in place. If you don’t, start going back and doing them now. (For advice on this I recommend Michael Donaldson’s Clearance and Copyright.)
2. Before you ink your deal, ask for a copy of the distributor’s delivery schedule and run it by a knowledgeable post person involved with your film, i.e., your post supervisor or editor. Ask them if you are able to create the elements requested and how much they will cost.
3. Ask for more time for delivery. Delivery will probably take you from one to three months. If you’ve pulled lots of favors at post houses during production you may find that you’re not able to push these vendors as hard as you need to get materials made -- or, more probably, you won’t be able to do all the corrections and fixes as fast as you need to. As filmmaker Alrick Brown told the Lab this morning, “People who do things for free don’t do them on time.” So, be realistic about the time you’ll need to deliver. (True story: I ran into a filmmaker from a previous year of the IFP Narrative Lab in Cannes last month. He told me he signed a distribution deal that was contingent on a delivery date because the distributor had a slot they wanted to fill. When he couldn’t generate his materials in time, the deal went away.)
4. Ask yourself, can you afford to deliver? If you’re not getting an advance, seriously consider whether the deal is one you can afford to take. I heard of one dispirited filmmaker recently who raised a lot of money to deliver and was crushed, emotionally and financially, when she didn’t recoup any of it.
5. Identify your delivery coordinator. Make sure you have someone on your team -- and it could be you -- who is detail oriented and can stay focused throughout the process. Make sure that person saves every email, papers every verbal deal with an email follow-up, and keeps a detailed delivery chart filled with FexEx tracking numbers, delivery signatures, etc.
6. And if you can’t afford to deliver... know that heavy-duty, six-figure delivery is for sales to major distributors. Although you may be taking on a bit of risk, you can be more casual if you’re doing DIY distribution, going non-theatrical, selling DVDs from your website, etc. (If you’re trying to sell to cable, like the Sundance channel, you will need things like E&O Insurance, though.)
7. If you didn’t already, go back and read Anthony and Mary Jane’s piece. Yes, it’s from 1994... but the more things change...
See you next week.
ALUM FILMS SCREEN IN 'TWILIGHTS @ TAVERN' SERIES NYC Parks and the Central Park Conservancy recently launched “The Scene @ Tavern on the Green,” regular programming through September on the Tavern’s 7,000-square-foot outdoor terrace that is open to the public. Wednesday evenings, dubbed “Twilights @ Tavern,” will feature lectures and live acoustic musical performances, and a regular film series presented in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and IFP. Alumni films of IFP programs selected for the series include Paola Mendoza and Gloria La Morte’s Entre Nos, which screened this week, Vanessa Gould’s Between the Folds on June 29, Marilyn Agrelo’s Mad Hot Ballroom on July 13, and Dori Berinstein’s Carol Channing: Larger than Life on August 17. For more information on “The Scene @ Tavern on the Green,” schedule of events, go here.
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REINDEERSPOTTING: ESCAPE FROM SANTALAND By Michael Tully
In the opening minutes of Joonas Neuvonen’s Reindeerspotting: Escape From Santaland, don’t be surprised if you’re overcome with that “here we go again” feeling, and not in a good way. For the fact remains, does the world really need yet another film about junky culture? Yes, we know drugs are bad. Yes, we understand by now that they numb your senses and make you behave in illegal, immoral ways. Yes, we are well aware that they turn the most charismatic of souls into evil zombies. Even when it comes to the concept of documentary junkies versus movie junkies, as with the drugs themselves, at some point, you just become numb to it all. So yes, Reindeerspotting has some tall odds stacked up against it. read more THE TRIP The latest from British auteur Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, The Killer Inside Me) reunites him with the stars of his 2005 film Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. For The Trip, Coogan and Brydon, as fictionalized versions of themselves, embark on a lengthy tour of England's finest restaurants. A mockumentary, buddy picture, and road film all at once, the real joy of The Trip lies in Coogan and Braydon's bizarre chemistry and constantly hilarious battle of wits. THE TROLL HUNTER Like The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and REC before it, this Norwegian horror import employs a mock-documentary style to tell a surprisingly complex story on a tight budget. From writer-director Andre Ovredal, The Troll Hunter follows a student film crew as they unravel a government-led conspiracy to keep Norway's indigenous troll population under-wraps. Ovredal infuses The Troll Hunter with compelling characters, tension-filled action sequences, and moments of real emotional depth. The result is a film that builds a dense mythology and rises far above its genre-trappings. This week on the blog, Jason Guerrasio on IFP's 2011 Narrative Lab Participants, Todd Looby (pictured left) talks micro-budget filmmaking, and Farhah Zaman looks at the art of the reimagined movie poster.
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SEAN KU, "BEAUTIFUL BOY" By Brandon Harris
It’s been a dozen years since the Columbine tragedy and almost a half decade since the Virginia Tech shooting, but random outbursts of violence by troubled young male students with easy access to weaponry are still among the most troubling topics that our society is struggling to come to grips with. Less self consciously arty than say an Elephant or We Need to Talk About Kevin, Shawn Ku‘s Beautiful Boy tells the story of Bill and Kate, (Michael Sheen and Maria Bello), a relatively comfortable suburban couple who have entered middle age content but relatively uninspired. First and foremost a searing, naturalist portrait of a marriage on the rocks, the facade of normality and relative leisure that they’ve built for themselves is brutally shattered after their college freshman son Sammy (Kyle Gallner) kills himself and several of his classmates in a largely unexplained crime that leaves a giant crater at the very center of their lives. read more JUNE
Hamptons Film Festival
Late Deadline: June 10
WAB Deadline: June 24
Festival Dates: October 13 - 17
Woodstock Film Festival
Regular Deadline: June 14
WAB Deadline: June 21
Festival Dates: September 21 - 25
Albuquerque Film Festival
Regular Deadline: June 15
WAB Deadline: July 10
Festival Dates: August 18 - 21