by | June 7, 2023 | Newsletter

Heading to Tribeca this week – returning to the festival where Bomb It  had its world premiere in 2007.  It was right then that the market for independent films collapsed (a year before the most of the rest economy collapsed).   Many filmmakers today are facing a similar landscape that I did back in 2007.  I’ve included an excerpt from Think Outside the Box Office below where I talk about how I got started on this journey. 

As I reread the excerpt below, I am struck by how this could be written by a filmmaker right now coming out of their premiere festival. Yes, the landscape has changed dramatically – but as we have discussed before and much has been written about – here we are again – filmmakers needing to own the distribution and marketing process (but did that ever really go away even in the “Golden Age of Docs” – for most filmmakers I don’t think so).  At least now there is more information and resources to help guide filmmakers through this process.  And now the Tribeca focused excerpt from Think Outside the Box Office:

“I had my own rude awakening in 2007 when I brought my film Bomb It (a documentary about the global explosion of graffiti art and culture, and the resultant worldwide battle over public space) to the Tribeca Film Festival. We did our festival launch the old-school way:
• We saved our world premiere for a top U.S. film festival that had a history of acquisitions.

• We got a top-class sales agent to marshal the distribution world and get people excited about our film.

• No advance screeners went out to potential buyers.

• We paid a ton of money for a conventional publicist to get the film written up, so potential distributors would know that there was interest in our film.

• We spent more money on a variety of marketing efforts to get our audience into the theaters (the festival’s theaters).

Each of our five screenings (in 500- to 600-seat venues) was sold out. People lined up around the block; 100 to 200 people were turned away at each screening! The audiences were engaged in the film: People laughed in places that I didn’t expect; there were eruptions of applause after the screenings and mobs of adoring fans.

And nothing in terms of sales. No overall deal with an advance that made any financial sense. We were offered extremely low money deals for theatrical and DVD, tied together so that we were sure that we would never see a dime. No television or cable. No foreign. 2007 was the tipping point in the collapse of the studio-based independent distribution model. We did get interest from a few DVD companies — however, none with any significant advance. What the F? The market had changed — drastically.

A week after Tribeca, our film was available for sale on Canal Street — as a bootleg.

Part of the reason I wrote this book is because I wish I had had it before I released my film. Filmmakers are hungry for information on how to distribute and market their films. Many are shooting themselves in the foot in the process (like I did many times). While there are some disparate sources of information on these new methods, no single resource exists that combines all of the knowledge and tools now available to filmmakers.

Think Outside the Box Office is the first step in filling that void.”