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Should Filmmakers Think About Distribution Before They Start Shooting?

Should Filmmakers Think About Distribution Before They Start Shooting?

Jeff Baena, "Life After Beth": I
personally think that filmmakers should just focus on their film and not
worry about distribution or the business side of it. You should
be an artist and tell the story you want to tell. Whether or not it
finds an audience is fate. It is not a good path to go down trying to assume
what your distribution and marketing plans are as you are making it
because then you are sort of a jaded person and you are not really a
filmmaker or an artist.

David and Nathan Zellner, "Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter": It’s
smart to think about it unless you are fortunate enough to have other
people thinking about that for you. It is smart to be making things to
be seen, so it’s good to be thinking on some level where and how you
wanted to go afterwards.

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Alex Ross Perry "Listen Up Phillip!": I don’t know
if I think they should or shouldn’t, but I know that they have to
because these conversations are in play not even in pre-production; they
are in play in development. A conversation about the commercial
prospects or the distribution chances affects whether or not a movie is
aiming for $500,00 or $1 million.

On a movie for which the script has only been finished for a couple months and has been read by
less than twenty people, we are having conversations about the
distribution prospects of a film like this based on each individual cast
scenario and how much money that means we should try to make a budget
for. Whether or not people should have these conversations, they are
being had at square one, which in some ways makes movies better and more
interesting. Something that happened for "Listen Up Phillip!" is that
there was a scene where Jonathan Pryce’s character is supposed to take
Jason Schwartzaman’s character to a restaurant, and someone just said, "This is so pointless, why do we want to find a restaurant and close it
down. Can’t this scene take place in his house?"

The scene ended up
being my favorite scene in the movie, and it came from someone asking us to
cut this restaurant and think of a creative solution. Now we have a
scene that is better that anything I could have come up with. I think, to
some extent, those conversations can be quite beneficial in a very
classical economic filmmaking way that people should look at anyway.
Working on the next thing I’m thinking about decisions like that on my
own before someone else has to suggest them to me.
Malik Vitthal, "Imperial Dreams": I think filmmakers should think about who their
audience is, how are they going to connect with that audience, and also
how they are going to market their film. That’s all part of filmmaking,
every level of it until it gets out to your specific audience. It’s
realistic to think that way. As you are creating the film, it’s good to
ask yourself who do you think the audience is? How do you want the
audience to react? That can help you later when you are getting it out
to the correct people to see your film. Whether it is going to end up on
Netflix, or in theaters, or VOD, it is good to know which directions
you want to go in the end. It depends on what the project is.

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Adam Wingard, "The Guest": I think you should always consider who is
going to be watching the movie. Even if you are making a wholly
sentimental artistic statement with your film, at the end of the day, it’s not only going to be you by yourself sitting in your house
watching it, that’s not the reason you made it. Thinking about how to
tell that story and also telling it in a way that engages people is a
healthy thing to do. Otherwise you end up with something that may be so
pretentious that nobody really cares about it, and I don’t think that’s
actually a filmmaker’s intention ever. A lot of people say they made
their movie for themselves or whatever, but if they made it for
themselves they wouldn’t show it to anybody.

Ana Lily Amirpour "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night": I think if you are thinking about financial
prospects at all at the time of making the film you are not going to
make a good film. It is a financially stupid endeavor to make a film.
I’m not like "I’m going to become a millionaire because I made black
& white, Farsi language, vampire film." I’m just an inventor. I’m
interested in my own idea. I want to make an experience and I want
people to experience it and hopefully enjoy it. I grew up on "Back to
the Future," "Superman," "The Never-Ending Story," and all these
fantasies and the magic of American movies. It was just an adventure of
infinite possibilities. Making a movie is like being inside of a dream,
that’s all I can think. I’m not trying to figure out the money part. You
cannot predict the whims of an audience. It is about pure risk and
betting on something. You do have to get money from people to make the
film, but if they do give it you hopefully it is because they believe
the idea is something special. People that really want to make money
don’t go after making movies. They should make an app.

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Comments

Alan

I like Jeff’s and Ana’s answers. The question is should filmmakers think about distribution before making the film. When does "making the film" begin? Right before going into production? Before showing the script around to get money or before writing the script? All filmmakers grew up first being a movie audience. Of course, they want their films to be seen. Part of being a good filmmaker is having that instinct that your voice is needed. "Distribution" is more of the producer’s job. The producers/marketers should try to find ways to get the artist’s voice heard.

T

Maybe some people intuitively understand their audience and never have to make a conscious effort to think about who those people are and how they will find the film. Or maybe they genuinely don’t care, and just want to make art for art’s sake and they have the resources to do so.

For those of us who are using each film to leverage the next, there are a lot of factors at play during development. You may not COMMIT to a distribution strategy before you start filming, but you should certainly THINK of a few.

Z

The title of this post seems like a no-brainer to me. Of COURSE filmmakers should think about this — in the exact same way a novel writer must think about his audience before crafting his story. Identifying who this film is for, and how you’re going to deliver it to them, is fundamental to the identity of your film, both on a technical and aesthetic.

So, great article, but, like, DUH.

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