A few months ago my good friend and writing partner, Nathan Ives, wrote a post about how he raised money for his recent feature film, It’s Not You, It’s Me.
Well, production is finished and he’s taking the film on the road with a grassroots independent theatrical release.
I’m a big proponent in making things happen for yourself, and that’s exactly what Nate has gone out and done. His story is a real life case study about how to make a movie and then market it once you’re done.
So he’s back with a follow up post about what he’s been doing to try and get his movie out into the world.
I hope you find it as inspiring as I did
This post is a follow up to a post I did about raising money for a feature film.
I recently produced, wrote, and directed, ‘It’s Not You, It’s Me‘ starring Vivca A. Fox (Independence Day, Kill Bill 2), Ross McCall (Band of Brothers, White Collar), and Joelle Carter (High Fidelity, Justified). You can watch the trailer at www.itsnotyouitsmefilm.com.
Late last year I completed the film, we had a great cast and crew screening in LA and the film was generally very well received. Cut to almost a year later, our sales agent folded, there are a few bad offers from distributors and even those carry a 10-15 year contract.
I think most independent filmmakers (including myself) think ‘my film is going to win Sundance, get a ton of buzz, and Weinstein is going to buy it for ten times what I’ve got in it.’ Well, my friends, that is NOT a marketing plan for making your investor’s money back. That’s a lottery ticket at best.
‘It’s Not You, It’s Me’ didn’t win Sundance, didn’t even get in. There’s an old adage ‘the hardest part of independent filmmaking is raising the money.’ Not true, that is no doubt extremely difficult, but not half as difficult, I’m finding, as making the money back!
I found myself left with what I consider to be a competent film, that is well received, and has a marketable cast… but no buyers who will pay me near enough to cover my budget.
If you’re planning on making an independent film, ask yourself this, ‘how am I going to get people to PAY to watch my film instead of the thousands of others out there?’ ‘How am I going to draw people’s attention away from Facebook, from Call of Duty, from the ten thousand cable channels, to watch MY film?’
Unfortunately, I’m asking these questions after completing my film, with investors saying ‘hey Nathan, how’s it going?’
After some thought, a few books, most importantly ‘Think Outside The Box Office,’ I have a marketing plan. I’m sure there are others, but this one best fits my long term vision and skill set (I’m a bit of a gypsy and like meeting people).
I basically have taken the film on ‘tour.’ I rented about 30 indy theaters in the southeast (I’m from North Carolina), sell tickets (initially), and attend each screening doing a Q&A after. I sleep in cheap hotels, on friend’s couches, and occasionally in my truck. I’m also speaking at colleges and doing radio/newspaper interviews when I can get them. Here’s a link to a recent NPR interview I did: http://wcqs.org/post/its-
The basic idea is that if I can make enough from the screenings to survive on the road, and my efforts drive VOD sales, then I’ll stay on the road through 2014.
I’m about half way through this first leg of the tour and have learned the following:
1. It’s damn hard to fill theaters, when I first started out I walked the streets handing out fliers, really looking people in the eye and personally inviting them to the screenings, I got between 0% and 3% to attend. Way too much effort for very little return.
2. Radio and newspaper are key, unfortunately everyone knows it so it’s hard to get interviews, but when I’ve been able to, it fills seats.
3. At first I was charging for tickets but then tried some ‘pay what you want’ screenings. Basically the tickets are free and I pass a hat after the Q&A. Think Radiohead circa 2008. This system gets a lot more people out (the ultimate goal anyway) and I’ve found people will put an average of about $5 in the hat… and occasionally you’ll find a $50 or $100 in there.
4. Papering the town with fliers in stores and coffee shops did very little if anything.
5. Once you’ve had a successful screening at a theater (40+ people) you can cut really good deals with theater owners for another screening a few weeks later.
6. I always stand at the theater entrance and welcome people, thank them for coming. I’m always the last one to leave the theater.
7. I always specifically ask people to like us on FB, tell their friends about the movie, leave a rating on IMDB, and to please join the email list. I ask a couple of things before the screening and a couple before the Q&A at the end.
8. It’s literally a 12-14 hour a day, seven days a week, job. If I’m not screening, I’m driving, contacting media, returning emails, updating social media, confirming with theaters, reading marketing blogs or figuring out how I’ll pay rent. And it’s exhausting!
9. The most I’m able to spend on a theater and make the model work is about $300. Avoid small towns, they’re impossible to fill. College towns tend to be great!
My short term goal, as mentioned, is to simply make enough money to cover my travel expenses, build buzz about the film, and drive traffic to iTunes and other VOD distributors.
Medium term is to build enough buzz and downloads to get the attention of distributors who then might offer a much better deal once they’re comfortable that the film has an audience.
Long term is to build my own distribution channel of people who like my films and to share my model with other indy filmmakers.
Is it working? I don’t know. We got up on iTunes and Amazon on October 15th, I won’t get my first report (they both report monthly) until around November 20th. And while the first sales report will tell me something, I think it will be 4-6 months before I’m really able to tell if month over month, I’m able to increase the VOD sales.
I’ll write another post in a few months and let you know my findings!
In the meantime I would greatly appreciate your support!
1. If you can’t make it to a screening, please check out ‘It’s Not You, It’s Me’ on iTunes or Amazon and PLEASE leave a rating and review on IMDB.
2. If you enjoy the film, please spread the word on social media.
3. Please like us on FB https://www.facebook.com/itsnotyouitsmefilm
Thank you! If anyone has questions about my experience with ‘It’s Not You, It’s Me,’ please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.