Everyone says that to be successful in Hollywood, you have to live in Los Angeles, but several companies have proven that not so. True, they come in for events like the AFM but for the most part they are content to work their magic from their home area be that Nevada, Florida, Phoeniz or even Germany.
Sequestered in Nevada, are Robin Hood Films and R-Squared.
Christoper Robin Hood – yes, that’s his real name – says of himself “I’m a newbie at distribution. As long as it’s fair, I’m for it.” He writes, directs and always wanted to make films. Himself burned by a distributor, Chris decided the only way was to jump in on his own. He warns young producers to get your money up front. Take the advance because that might be the only money you see. Many distributors have their caps too high. His distributor, which shall be nameless, made over a $100,000 on the movie, while Chris only got $10,000! This happened even through he did due diligence. He knew that working with this group he had to get all the money up front.
Limit the amount of time your distributor has your film. Make sure to put a cap on his expenses.
As far as the movies that he likes to distribute, he prefers action and sci fi. “Those are among the easiest to sell overseas. Comedy is hard to sell because it doesn’t translate well unless it’s slapstick.” On occasion, he will put money into finishing films. Do you have 50% of the funds? Check out those tax credits and incentives, or soft money.
Mistakes new producers make are often choosing the wrong genre or a bad script. They often don’t spend their money properly. Without a recognizable actor, you’re going to have trouble. You can get someone like Val Kilmer for as little as $100,000, if he likes your script. Even at $500,000, you have to have a recognizable name. Check with Imdbpro as to their ratings. Ask the distributor if this is a good name for overseas.
Film makers are often too creative and not business people. Find a good business person to help you out so that you can do your creative thing. Art work is also crucial to the success of a film. Often the only thing people will see is your poster and maybe your tag line. If they don’t like that, you’re screwed. The poster is what sells. “There are so many places that the filmmaker can hit a brick wall. You have to get an MPA rating (some filmmakers think it’s not necessary, but it is) and you must have a collection account and carry errors and omissions insurance. Even when your film is done, it’s just the beginning of the process. It costs maybe another $20,000, at least, just to get a film out there.
His first film, IMPACT, he made mistakes. If you don’t make money on your first film, you’re going to have a hard time getting the investors to give you money for your second film. While you have to be passionate about your film, don’t make an art film, make one that is commercial. Make product, not just great films.
Also in Nevada, but closer to Reno, is Buzz Remde and R-Squared films. R Squared works at all levels including writing, development, production and distribution. While he will act as a distributor and sales agent for some films, he prefers to be involved in the whole process. “We have a family of producers that we work with and we bring a lot of talent together. When we meet writers with an idea, we steer them toward the right producer. We like to keep things in the family.
They tend to stay away from comedy, which is so cast driven. But they like action, thriller, family and sci fi. Their budget is 1-3 million. Many of their offerings do go direct to video. They have over 150 films in their catalogue
Some of his offerings at this AFM are Bubblegum and Broken Fingers- an action film, and Firefall – a family adventure film.
Buzz often uses a number of independent theatres to view the films, test and note the reactions to them. He tells producers to do a lot of solid networking, especially on line. Do it while the film is still in production.
When ask about the difference between a sales agent and a distributor, I was told that a sales agent will often look for a distributor. NEVER PAY A SALES AGENT UP FRONT MONEY. Apparently, there are several unscrupulous companies that prey on the wishes and hopes of screenwriters and producers.
So how do you know if the distributor is being honest with you. If you have to write any checks to them, you know you’re in the wrong place. There should be a limit on the recoupable expenses that they have for P and A. If they aren’t willing to put some of their own money in, you have to question that. This is a discretionary income product. Look at the size of the company If they have a lot of layers to pay, they’re going to give you a lot less back. A good distributor will give you an honest estimate of what they think the film is worth and what they think it wlll make. We all want our films to make in the millions, but we have to be realistic.
Not far away, the glowing city of Phoenix, Saint James Films and Tom Cat Films - one as producer and the other as distributor - co-exist. Specializing in high concept, smaller budget films they like thrillers, horror, sci fi, supernatural, and action.
In addition to their own films, Ted Chalmers of Tom Cat likes attending the various festivals, looking for genre films to pick up for their slate. The best selling of their films is a vampire tale, but zombies, with the popularity of Walking Dead, are still selling well. "People crave the escapist content." He tells producers that good box artwork and poster is crucial, as is a good trailer. "Our trailers have a reputation. It has to tell the story for the foreign market." If you go to youtoo.com you will see that Top Cat is an exclusive provider of their trailers.
Mark Newbauer of Saint James suggests that writers stick to a single high concept..like Jurassic Shark or Iris is Rising: Curse of the Lady Mummy, one of their biggest hits. "We try to make it fun for our people."He tells producers to treat their cast and crew good and they'll have a good film. "Start with the branding and know what you want to say. Find out what they want to buy and then go make it." Also producing under the name Mike the Pike Productions, he's proud of having finished his seventh films, which is an accomplishment in the independent arena. That means your investors are getting their money back.
Fresh from the coconut groves of West Palm Beach, Johan Strum of AMG talks about his group of producers, generally called the Alliance Media Group, who banded together against the bigger studios. While Johan, who handles the animation side of the projects and is here selling their Biblical cartoon, The Lion of Judah and his soon to be finished An African Tale, he talked about Jena Waldron of Prelude Ltd that does projects of five million and under who is doing a series about Biblical women. “They do a lot of TV movies. Different companies do different things,” he says, “ one of the groups tends to do more TV series, and has a first look deal at Warner Brothers. While animation is often more expensive, in the end, there is better marketing for it with the toys and other items.
Doing their own in house distribution for their own projects, they will often take on other projects especially where they can be co-producers. They are very selective on the ones they take on. “We want to do the project well.”
He found that international pre-sales were slow this year and warns young producers to due their due diligence on any distributor they hire. Who have they worked for before and find out if those people were happy. Find out if the distributor is willing to put some of his own money on the line for P &A. (The amount of P &A you put into a project will often depend if it goes straight to DVD or goes theatrical.) Ask yourself where do you want to pitch your project? Who will the market be?
Johan says that “family is coming back, big time. Fox is now doing a massive Biblical movie. “ He suggests that writers and producers check out the blog movieindustry.com.
Ida Martins runs Media Luna New Films, a German based company that likes to deal with producers and writers directly. They like tackling things as a team. Often a film doesn't sell itself. You have to look at the marketing potential and trends. What is selling out there. "We like all subject and don't make judgments." She attends most festivals looking for product to add to her line. "It's difficult to get financiers if you don't have a name attached," she tells new producers. "It can be a great director or it can be a good cast." While erotic sells films, she urges producers not to put it in unless it fits the film and advises all the producers to have great trailers. "One problem is that when people talk about American films, they have a cliché in mind. Good films span the world. Films that have something to say, as in drama, also need a good audience. This is the foundation of the film. "We sell dreams. The good director must make the audience feel what he wants. The story has to be emotional. " Her partner Alessandro Lombardo, responsible for acquisitions and sales, is the one to see.