I’ve been getting questions about SXSW and what the results have been of my film that premiered there. The only update I can share with you at this time is we are negotiating with a handful of distributors at the moment and no deal has been struck yet. So I will fill you in when all that closes!
My take away on SXSW is that similar to Tribeca, it’s not really an acquisitions festival. If you notice from the trades, there were maybe one or two ‘big’ acquisitions but the majority of the films that premiered at SXSW left without a deal…. and some are in the throes of negotiating with distribution prospects (like us), but others aren’t. I talked to two filmmakers who premiered there that got NO offers off the back of SXSW and are approaching distributors on their own now.
Again, not a major problem for those who aren’t under financial pressure of having to recoup big budgets, so we can afford to be patient. But definitely something to keep in mind for the future – if you are reverse engineering your film to premiere at SXSW or Tribeca, don’t plan on an all rights deal even in this sellers market we’re in. The big deals come off of Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, and Toronto really…. and then everything else is smaller deals.
And as always, my advice is to keep your budget well below a million unless you have the cast and/or director that you think can get you to Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, or Toronto. The three features I’m actively preparing and packaging right now, that’s our mindset and what we’re working towards since those budgets are all over $1 million. For the other 2-3 micro budgets I’m working on, we have different strategies.
How Do Films Make Money?
Personally I think this is a good place to start before deciding how much you need for financing and where you’re going to find your financing from…. you really need to have an understanding of the concept of how films actually make money, and then reverse engineer from there.
For example, someone started a discussion on this in the FS Forums who is making a low budget horror film for under $100K but wants to make back $250K once it’s completed. I don’t fault this person of course because $250K doesn’t sound like a lot of money to make on a completed film….except that it is.
It’s actually not ‘easy’ to make that kind of money on a film unless you’ve carefully strategized from the beginning – reverse engineered genre, cast, possible festival premieres, niche audiences, and other stuff. Are there exceptions? Of course!! But those exceptions are rare so personally I’d rather plan.
And the strategy is different for micro budgets, low budgets, and over $1 million budgets – at every one of these budget levels ask yourself, where are we going to make this kind of money from once it’s completed….how can we mitigate risk and package in a way that protects our downside while still accomplishing the goals set out for the filmmaker (which usually includes moving his/her career forward).
It’s all possible in todays market to do this! It just takes a little planning and of course being in touch with current market realities which I try and make you aware of, based on my own experiences, in my emails, courses, and the FS Forums.
So what are your thoughts on all this? We can continue the conversation in the comments section below…