Interestingly enough I’ve been working with 2 or 3 clients this week on exactly the same conundrum. Here’s the basic premise…
They’ve spent $1 million to make their movie, perhaps even premiered at a major festival, but no deals on the horizon. What’s left to do? Do-it-yourself aka Direct Distribution? But wait… that’s going to cost money to get going and they’ve already spent $1 million to make the film! What to do? Is it worth it to spend more money on distributing the film in hopes of recouping that extra expenditure and then start chipping away at the $1 million budget? Or is it silly to throw good money after bad?
This very scenario is replayed to me several times a week and unfortunately there is no straightforward answer. However to begin to answer it, you must start with your goals. If first and foremost you goal is to recoup that initial $1 million, I personally wouldn’t suggest spending another few hundred grand in hopes of making that happen. If you’re talking about doing a theatrical release, you’ll have to make double or triple that amount at the box office just to break even. In other words, if you’re lucky, you’ll just about recoup that $200K and still be left holding the bill on the one mill.
BUT… if your primary goal is exposure rather than profit, and you’re in a position to not recoup the $1 million, then I say go for it! If done properly, a theatrical tour even when done yourself without a traditional distributor can be extremely effective in raising awareness for your film, for you, and possibly raise the stakes for ancillary revenues.
Of course it doesn’t always have to cost $200K to do your own theatrical tour, nor do you even have to consider a theatrical tour as part of your direct distribution plan…. but this is 95% of the time the road filmmakers wish to pursue.
Ironically if you ask the distributors themselves, the theatrical service companies who help orchestrate the theatrical tours, they will tell you that if you’re in this business to make a profit then that’s your first mistake! What do you think about this?
And then there’s the option of actually using the festival circuit as your theatrical release tour – but is that enough and should you try and use the festival as a launching pad for a more extensive release? I did a Podcast on this very topic a while back that is still more relevant than ever.
Anyway, I’m curious what the Independent Film Blog readers’ take is on all this. Mainly, is it worth it to spend more to possibly make some? Or do you cut your losses, learn from your mistakes and move on to the next project?