Thanks to all the hard work of our PMD, Emily, fans to the Facebook page finally topped 1000 - and as promised, waaaaay back when, we made a small donation to charity. The choice of charity was hard... as it always is in these cases - I personally always prefer some form of local kids’ charity so in the end we made our £100 donation to the Children’s Heart Unit Fund (CHUF) at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle. They do really remarkable work there and although (touch wood) I haven’t known anyone who has needed treatment there - I have always liked to support CHUF. We will make another donation of £100 to a different charity upon reaching 2000 followers... so start spreading the word!
What else? Remember a couple of weeks back I talked about the backlash against the whole concept of PMDs and self-distribution that has exploded on the internet lately? Well, it’s getting more and more fierce and more and more vociferous by the day with some filmmakers seeming to be almost insulted by the prospect of thinking about building an audience for their work! Once again, I find myself baffled by this attitude - all artists need an audience for their work - or a fan base if you prefer the term. The days of a wealthy individual acting as a patron for a penniless artist are long gone! Although many artists are still penniless - maybe that’s because they are busy waiting to be discovered?
The thing is (as I’ve said before) in 2010, there is an absolute ton of things that people can spend their leisure time on - and going to the movies isn’t cheap... not really, a couple of Tweets on this subject from last week.
“Paid £25 for daughter and a friend to go to the pictures and have popcorn. TWENTY. FIVE. QUID.”
“ I paid $80 for 5 tickets and accompanied snacks at the cinema for Shrek 4. Should have waited for DVD...”
Rumour has it that it costs £13 to see a ticket in certain cinemas in the West End of London! Think about that - I know we’re all getting older and “When I were a lad during t’war” and all that - but £13 is fairly outrageous to see a prerecorded 2 hours of entertainment (once) - that you can buy on DVD for about £10 if you hang on a few of weeks. Consider that tickets for Premiership football matches start from £15 or you can get a standing ticket to see the Red Sox at Fenway Park for $20 and that tickets for the pantomime at the Tyne Theatre this Christmas go for £10 to £20. These are all similar experiences to the cinema - with the exception that they are “live” performances and with the sporting events you have the added bonus of a “one in a lifetime experience”... even pantomimes are different every show really! To put this price into further perspective tickets for the Glastonbury Festival are just under £200!
Now chances are, if a film is in a cinema with £13 tickets then it will contain a number of “bankable stars” and will have had the benefit of a massive marketing spend to sear its existence onto the consciousness of the public. All those buses you see with film ads on the side? £500 each for two weeks; the tube ads around £1200 per site for two weeks; a billboard will set up back around £1000 per site per month and a full page, full colour advert in a national newspaper will set you back up to £30,000! Like it or not - THAT IS YOUR COMPETITION! Ton Cruise, George Clooney, Julia Roberts and half a million squid P&A spend (print & ADVERTISING)... How can you show your personal, little, beautiful film with a no name cast is worth people going to see? Actually forget that, how can you let people know it exists??? Or indeed how can you convince a cinema to show your film instead of the latest Hollywood spectacle? Be honest with yourself.
Traditionally this work was done by a distributor but times have changed; as the costs of technology have plummeted so the number of independent films being made each year has skyrocketed. In 2008, Sundance had 3624 entries and accepted 110 - 120. This year of the 110 - 120 films accepted, I believe that less than 10 of them received any kind of significant distribution deal! And therein lies the disconnect - back in the day, if your film got into Sundance, you were set for a decent career... not any more. Obviously getting accepted into such prestigious festival has it’s own kudos - but kudos won’t put shoes on the kids’ feet!
Now the argument for the other side goes something like this - “if your film is good enough (and by good enough we meant TRULY GREAT) - it will be discovered” and if one spent more time trying to make a truly great film and less time marketing shit films on MyTwitFace then the world would be a happy place! I disagree with the over simplicity and naivety of this point of view for two reasons - 1. What makes a film truly great? I can think of a dozen films of the top of my head where there could be a massive debate over whether they are great or not. And 2. Even if you make a TRULY GREAT film - how can you be sure it will be discovered? Will it get into festivals and be seen there? (see paragraph above re Sundance) Who will put it into cinemas? I mean what if your film just doesn’t get in front of someone who can release it? These things do happen - and more often that you’d think.
Using tools and techniques that have been devised and developed to help you overcome this situation is not being a sell out, it’s not being a charlatan or snake-oil salesman, it’s called being sensible - I mean in what other business (and at the end of the day film is every bit as much business as art) would an attitude of “build it and they will come” be not only tolerated but lauded?