Here's the current skinny.
Traditional theatrical release is an aggregate money-loser and has enormous P&A costs for entry. North American cable sales for indies are currently diminished, because cablers are wanting more "sure thing" content with bigger-name talent in them (there goes my ultra-low-budget budget), among other reasons. Foreign sales numbers are down for indies for a bunch of reasons (subscribe to Filmspecific.com - love that site). Traditional home entertainment (DVD) distributors generally offer no advances for acquisitions, spend a lot of necessary money to market your title (if you're lucky), and pay you a smidgeon of any unit sales at the end of a long line of expenses, fees, and percentages owed to other players. Broadband and download scenarios are neat-o in concept, and no doubt will play bigger roles in even a few years, but currently offer close to zero in revenues.
So, where can an indie project make any money, especially make its money back with a return?
Cue Vincent Price laughter. Ha ha ha ha ha aha hahaha!
And, how will I, the producer, ever make a dime either, after investors are repaid? I'm already looking at how I can squeeze out a stipend, really, out of our budget. And, we're talking five figures here. And, that's supposed to tide me over between now and that mythical time that the movie makes enough revenues to have paid back its principal, and the remaining net profits will get split between me and the investor pool. And, right now, I use the term "me" loosely. It's likely that it will be some sort of "us" to share those monies.
Okay, now we've moved on to maniacal laughter. Seriously, someone needs to be locked up. It's scary.
I do this because I love the process. And, I'm motivated to inspire people with stories.
I've been working on projected return-on-investment (ROI) tables for Lost In Sunshine. And, it's hard. In a way. Because I can see how we can/will do it. But, making returns on movies is ALWAYS a nail-biter. But, then again, I'm really psyched about us keeping the reins of this project - from conception and execution through launch and distribution. There just aren't a lot of comparable titles and their numbers to reference. And, my projections include a large percentage of direct sales numbers from our (in-progress/future) website.
I keep thinking about our prospective investors.
On one hand, knowing what we need to do going in, arms us to prepare and work our asses off for that outcome. On the other hand, the Doubt Monster says, 'But, from what you can tell, maybe only one or two films/filmmakers have even reached those levels of revenues in the last two years.'
I'm not one to prop up exceptions as standard operating procedure. I want investors to know what a crap shoot indie film financing is, even if the producer(s) do everything "right." And, I keep wondering if there's more data I'm missing. I'm getting a picture; I just have moments where I wonder if there's a piece or two missing...
So, ALL OF THIS ABOVE, greatly explains my excitement over attending the IFP MN's Annual Producers Conference this coming Saturday in Minny-apple-less. Last year, I was blessed to be invited as a panelist; and, this year, I get to go listen to Peter Broderick talk about distribution! Plus, I'm delighted to be scheduled for a one-on-one mini-session with Matt Dentler of Cinetic Rights Management. He used to program SXSW, and jumping off bridges premiered there in 2006; so, I have a certain fondness for him already. I look forward to picking his brain over some of my digital projections, and all the others, too.
Thanks for reading.