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10 Unconventional Steps to Get Your Indie Film Out in the World

By David Greenspan | Indiewire May 20, 2014 at 3:19PM

Director David Greenspan details the unlikely and unconventional path he went to get his debut indie feature seen.
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5150 Mall Cop Now on VOD
"5150 Mall Cop"

Where do you go after winning the Palme d'Or at Cannes for your first short film? For director/editor David Greenspan, who became the first USC student film to win the Palme d’Or for short films at the 54th Cannes Film Festival (with his graduate thesis film "Bean Cake"), the path to getting his feature film debut out into the world has been circuitous. Though his first feature film, a dark comedy called "51/50 Mall Cop," starring Kathleen Robertson, premiered in competition at the 2005 Slamdance festival, it's only now available on digital platforms. Below Greenspan details in 10 not-so-easy steps how he made the film and finally got it seen.

Step 1

Go to film school.  Make a thesis film.  Win a Palme d'Or for Best Short Film at Cannes with thesis film.

Step 2

Have a producer who saw thesis film at Cannes approach you and ask if you have any scripts.

Send him a very mainstream sports comedy script. Have him politely reject that and ask if you have other more interesting, original, or personal projects. Send him a friend's script about a mall security guard who loses his right arm in a freak accident and then falls in love with one of the guards who replaces him.  

Step 3

When producer falls in love with that script and hires a casting director, thank your lucky stars that you're going to shoot a real feature! Meet a lot of talented up-and-coming actors for coffee. Hire a few and reject others. Even the ones you reject will go onto great success (e.g. Jason Siegel, Johnny Galecki). 

Step 4

Shoot film in Albuquerque, New Mexico for 30 days.  (A luxury for a low-budget project.)

Step 5 

Quit day job and spend next year editing the film and working on the score with the composer of "Napoleon Dynamite." Show film to Billy Idol's business manager in hopes of getting him to recommend it to Billy so that they will give you a cheap deal on the music rights to "White Wedding." (A song crucial to the film.)

Step 6

Get rejected from Sundance but take the film to Slamdance and hope it's discovered. Hire a producer’s rep. Get no offers for distribution. Realize that Hollywood dream of becoming a big time director will have to wait.  Learn the producer has run out of money to clear key songs like "White Wedding."

Step 7

Give up hope of ever getting the film distributed.  Pursue work as a picture editor on TV shows (such as "Grey's Anatomy").

Step 8

Use experience as picture editor and recut the film, taking out 12 minutes. Replace most of the songs with songs by friends' bands that they will give you on the cheap. Ask producer to hire a new music supervisor who completes the task of clearing “White Wedding."

Step 9

Cut a trailer for the film.  Hire a new producer's rep. Take the film all over town. Get lots more rejections. 

Step 10

Have a distributor [Indican] finally say, "We just like the film." Breathe sigh of relief.  Now start worrying about how to publicize the fact that the film is out there! 

Watch a trailer for "51/50 Mall Cop" below:


Los Angeles-based director/editor David Greenspan graduated from Harvard University in 1994 where he studied Economics and East Asian Studies. In 2001,Greenspan graduated from USC with an MFA in filmmaking and his graduate thesis film, "Bean Cake," became the first USC student film to win the Palme d’Or for short films at the 54th Cannes Film Festival. Greenspan's first feature, a dark comedy called "51/50 Mall Cop," premiered in competition at the 2005 Slamdance festival. This year, Greenspan was on the short film jury at the Slamdance Film Festival where his latest short film, "Somewhere In the Valley," had its world premiere. Since 2006, David has worked on the ABC Television's hit drama "Grey's Anatomy," first as an assistant editor, then editor and now as a director as well.  

Beginning today, "5150 Mall Cop" is available to buy or rent on various digital platforms, including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Redbox Instant.

This article is related to: Slamdance Film Festival, Slamdance, Cannes Film Festival, Filmmaker Toolkit: Distribution





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