Sunday, January 25, 2009

Thinking out loud...

Thinking out loud... about my business plan.

My Indie Comedy/Drama

$500K production
$200K (?) Launch Capital

With this money "in," how much money "out" can I project? And, in what time frame(s)?

I've researched comparable titles for LIS and listed which festivals, markets, and territories they've played in. From that info, I derived several tables of sales projections for foreign territory DVD and broadcast rights sales: low, moderate, and exceptional. I've also noted the same for North American DVD and broadcast rights, AND all rights deals in all territories. I used data from Stacey Parks' Film Specific website (I love her website) and from IMDB Pro.

The range between Low and Exceptional sales for foreign territories is $7,500 (or, more accurately, $0 actually) to $400K+. I looked at sales possibilities, again, based on my comparable titles, for two territories, four territories, and seven territories. So, for the sake of figuring out targets for other revenue streams, I'm setting a goal of $100K in foreign territory sales. For now.

North American sales might range from $25K to mid-six figures. So, what if I sketch in $75K as a target...?

What about theatrical? I haven't been planning this project as a Get-Picked-Up-by-Fox-Searchlight hopeful. Though, I'm not opposed to that, for the right price. :) But, I'm not wed to the idea that our film has to have a wide theatrical release for the sake of our own gratification. Or, any theatrical release. That being said, I'm trying to figure out if and how any limited, specialized, and/or DIY screenings should make up part of our distribution plans, so that we can a) make direct sales of our DVD at them, and b) we can pollinate awareness of our film for continued/future direct DVD sales from our website.

Been following, as always, Truly Free Film, the Workbook Project, and just recently, the Sundance Institute's Art House Convergence conference in Park City, the few days before its film fest. The Convergence listed nearly 20 art house cinemas that are partnered in its Art House Project. In a nutshell, they want to share ideas, resources, concerns, etc. together to keep themselves alive and vibrant in the exhibition world of megaplexes. And, there appears to be some sort of loose tie-in with Sundance-screened films playing at many of them.

So, I've been trying to get a handle on --
  • Should we aim for a Screening Plan/Release/Tour with Sundance AHP cinemas, if possible?
  • Should we aim for screenings at Landmark Cinemas and/or Regal Cinemas' art house programming?
  • Should I try to plan for some sort of festival screening(s) adjunct...? For instance, if we played at a film fest in NY state, should I aim to coordinate a(ny) screening(s) at an art house or other cinema within the region within a month of the fest?
  • Should we aim for a release with a consignment distributor instead? Maybe Magnolia's Truly Indie? Maybe Magic Lantern, Freestyle Releasing, or Indie Direct?
If we screen at say, 20 cinemas during our tour, how many DVD unit sales might I project from them, conservatively? I'd expect to lose money on the actual box office... Given different "how's" above, how much can I project that the different approaches might cost?

Of course, a lot of the above questions/ideas tie into how we position ourselves, marketing-wise, and how (well) we build community around LIS. I'm still working on that, and that's a whole 'nother posting.

Plus, all this cogitating gets me thinking about our post-production process! If we aim to have DVDs ready to sell at/during our festival run, how much longer will our post be? How will this affect our festival submissions goals? Blah, blah, blah...

The To-Theatrical or Not-To-Theatrical is just a potential piece of the revenue stream that I'm obsessed with, at the moment. There's also the ideas I/we have about our website, blogs, and complementary stories/videocasts, podcasts, art work, and the like. I want to spec out some assumptions and projections for those, too, costs-wise and revenue-wise. And, there's the digital platforms release strategy to anticipate, too...

I'm consumed. Fairly happily consumed, but a little impatient with how long it's taking me to figure stuff out. I wish I could spend a day, or afternoon even, with Peter Broderick.

If you have any ideas, pointers, etc. let me know!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Enough On My Plate


I'd been thinking about raising financing for a slate of three films: one "art house" indie, and two low-budget genre movies. My head says it's the smart thing to do - spread the risk over several projects, not just one; and, it is, with caveats. There are NO SURE THINGS. Even genre movies , which generally sell better than other genres, take work, commitment, and most importantly, heart to see them through to any successes they might have.

After a lot of homework on low-budget genre films, and the challenges of balancing my time between nearly-full-time toddler parenting and indie film producing (not to mention, this blog), I've decided to focus singly on my current "heart" project: Lost In Sunshine.

I'm feverishly working on my business plan for it. We're looking at a $500K budget, and another couple hundred thousand additionally, for end-game operating capital: P&A costs, distribution deliverables costs, market attendance expenses, and so on. I'm deeply in the throes of sketching out how the project will be monetized in its varied distribution outlets. I'm looking at the viability of foreign sales for our genre and budget, festival strategy and whether I can coordinate ancillary screenings in a fest's region, direct sales of DVDs (at screenings, off web site, etc.), downloads and VOD windows, and whether/how to execute a DIY theatrical tour of the movie. I'm also looking at existing distributors who might "ping" to our movie.

All this on top of charting potential cast, their costs, their "bankability," their suitability, etc., researching comparable titles, and the fun stuff of pre-production with my filmmaker: storyboards, location scouting, budgeting, crewing up, and so on.

I also continually find myself inspired by Ted Hope's postings and musings at Truly Free Film. I'm trying to incorporate the ideas put forth there into my plans for LIS.

Then, there's my website. It's taking me longer to get it out there in cyber-space (what else is new?), but it's coming. Soon. Really.

If you've seen the solicitations for applicants to the IFP Filmmaker Lab, I recommend it highly. jumping off bridges was one of eight participants during its inaugural year in 2005. It was four days of focus, sharing, learning, collegiality, and digesting. We learned a LOT about the life of our movie after it was "completed." Basically, there was a whole 'nother life after that point. :)

Back to work.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

In the weeds...

That's where I've been. And, things are looking pretty grassy still from where I'm at now, but I can see the view again.

What I've been wrestling with, in a nutshell, what kind of producer I am.

That's all. No big thing, right?

I have a capacious need for creativity, expression, and inspiration. I also have a Big Brain. I'm blessed, indeed. But, I sometimes feel caught in the middle between them. Heart says make movies about Human Moments. Brain says that's all well and good, but a good things-blow-up genre movie would nicely round out your cash flow as an entertainment company. Why not produce both?

I can see how to package one. I can see how to sell one. I can even see lots of good ways, visually and production-wise, of how to make one.

Because a movie, any movie, is like a baby. It needs committed parents. Parents who are in love with it.

What I've figured out in the last couple days is that my rudder for committing to producing a film is simply, I can't NOT do it. It comes down to my heart. It comes down to realizing a story has crept under my skin. My Brain can have all sorts of things, smart things, to say about lots of projects; but, my heart has to unapologetically bond to a story before I know I'm its producer.

I'm currently inspired by producers Vox3 Films. One of its partners, Steven Shainberg, made one of my favorite films, Secretary, with Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader. I like their company's mandate and their taste. And, they're art house, without apology.

Very cool.

I can see the view again.