Well we’re back again with another Case Study in our Micro Budget Filmmaking series. This time around, we’re visiting with filmmaker Greg Derochie who is very close to profitability on his micro budget film SOLITARY. What’s interesting about Greg’s story is how he’s achieving success through traditional distribution, rather than the self distribution we saw in our previous case study. But variation is good, right?!
So check out what Greg has to say and then post any questions you have for us in the Comments section below…..
Oh, and if you want to kick things up a notch in the Micro Budget arena, I’ll be doing Part 3 of my Getting Your Micro Budget Film Off The Ground Virtual Seminar series on DISTRIBUTION next week. For more details CLICK HERE. (To check out Part 1 and 2 of the Seminar series, click here and here).
What is the name and log line of your film?
SOLITARY – Some mysteries must be solved alone. . .
What is the website for your film?
What is the budget of your film?
What ‘names’ were in your film if any?
Although we tried to get “names”, in the end we made the film with unknowns, including an amazing actress in the lead role, Amber Jaeger.
How did you finance your film?
After false starts with a variety of financing approaches, we chose to self-finance the film and retain complete control.
How are you distributing your film?
We considered self-distribution, but decided to shop the film to traditional distributors during our festival run. Working with a producer’s rep, we signed a domestic deal with Osiris Entertainment and a foreign deal with Marvista Entertainment (the film is titled “A Memory of Lies” outside North America).
Why did you decide to do traditional distribution instead of self-distribution right away?
At the time, we looked around for anyone having success with self-distribution, and found very few examples. Also, while turning a profit on SOLITARY was certainly a goal, I was also making the film as a calling card and I believed that landing traditional distribution deals would raise the profile of the film. I have no regrets with that decision, but the film distribution landscape is changing so rapidly I might well make a different choice if I were making the same film today.
How did festivals play into your distribution strategy?
Like everyone, we rolled the dice and submitted to the top tier festivals, but I had no expectations of landing one of those coveted spots. Our strategy was simply to use festival screenings (and our eventual awards) to raise the stature of the film as much as we could before going to distributors. In our case that strategy worked, but I think it depends a great deal on the type of film and cast.
What are some of the obstacles (if any) that you encountered and how did you overcome them?
Our budget dictated a profit sharing approach to attract cast and crew and a weekends-only shooting schedule over 3 months. That led to a large roster of crew members rotating in and out of the production and we found ourselves constantly scrambling to recruit new people, never knowing from one week to the next whether we were going to be shooting or not. It made the film logistically complicated, but was offset somewhat by the fact that I never had to leave my house, using it as the prime location for the film. Another major obstacle was to how to handle the post production. Having shot the film on the RED One camera (brand new at the time), we had a huge data management challenge and no virtually no money in the budget for post. Luckily my background in visual effects gave me the skills to handle the post on my own, finishing the 90 minute film at 2k resolution on my desktop mac.
What were some of your biggest mistakes or wastes of time/money?
I don’t think there were any big mistakes, and at our budget level, nothing was wasted. It’s all up there on the screen.
What resources or tools did you find most helpful during production, post, and/or distribution?
During production we relied on craig’s list and mandy.com to find crew members. We also made extensive use of simple excel spreadsheets for budgeting and actuals, and Celtx software for our script breakdowns, props and wardrobe tracking. It was all about using what tools we had on hand, or free open source tools when possible. We did high end, 2k finishing work with after effects, as described beautifully in Stu Maschwitz’s book The DV Rebel Guide. And as first time feature filmmakers, we found a wealth of information on distribution as members of Film Specific.
Did you recoup your investors’ money?
As a self-financed film, I have no investors to answer to, but we are on the road to profitability.
If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would certainly try to budget more for festival costs, marketing materials, web and social media promotion, and delivery costs. We had some money set aside for those items, but not nearly enough. We learned the hard way that no matter what your budget is, you should seriously consider adding 25-50% for “getting the film sold” costs.
What are your next steps from here?
With SOLITARY now in distribution (streaming on Netflix, Chiller TV cable and DVD), we continue to support the film with grass roots marketing efforts (it never ends!) but it’s mostly running on its own steam now. I’m now developing new projects and seeking more directing opportunities.
If you’re looking to submit your film to Distributors or Sales Agents, you can check out the freshly updated Distributor Database and Sales Agency Database on the FS Site which are free to access for FS Members.
There’s also the grab-n-go Film Distribution Kit which includes hard copies of the Distributor and Sales Agency lists.