Guest Post: Joke and Biagio on Self Distribution for Dying to Do Letterman

Posted on by Emy

Joke and Biagio (right to left)

Today’s guest post is from Joke and Biagio who are doing an amazing job with their Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the distribution of their film Dying to do Lettermen. Check out their kickstarter page – they’re already raised $47,000.   In it they talk about why they are releasing their film themselves (plan B is the new Plan A).  And no – I didn’t pay them for all the nice things they say about me and TOTBO :)!

The Number One Reason We Look At Self-Distribution First

The Distributor Was Very Nice…

Truly. We genuinely liked this person. Why? The distributor:

  • Came to a screening of the movie (instead of passively requesting a DVD.)
  • Wrote a cell number down during the credits and said “call me ASAP.”
  • Offered to distribute the movie.

Sounds like a dream come true, right?

The Distributor Was Also Very Honest…

“There won’t be any money up-front. When all is said and done, after a few years, you can hope to make between $15,000 and $50,000.”

Huh?

We spent more than that making the movie.

A film we worked on for six years.

Steve Mazan from "Dying to Do Letterman"

True Story

The above is just one of the experiences we’ve had with legitimate distributors since our documentary Dying to do Letterman started winning awards a few months ago, and was invited to qualify for an Academy Award® by the International Documentary Association at DocuWeeks 11.

It’s sobering to realize the “fairy tale” ending you hoped for isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Here was a real distributor, showing passion for our film, making an honest offer.

An offer many filmmakers would leap at.

A small theatrical release, DVD, and VOD.

Of course, we’d have to turn over the rights, let go of our baby, and hope the distributor made good on their promises. And in return for handing off our passion project — half a decade of work completed with every penny we could invest…

We’d get between $15 and $50 grand, if we were lucky.

That’s when it hit us:

It’s not worth it.

The Number One Reason We Look At Self-Distribution First

We want to control our film’s destiny.

The vast majority of offers indie filmmakers receive will take that control out of their hands, along with all the meaningful rights to the movie.

With no up front money, no promise of success, and a better than even chance the film will die a long, slow death without the filmmaker ever seeing a penny, in most cases traditional distribution is a lose-lose proposition for filmmakers.

Making an Indie Film is Already a Gamble

Why assure yourself a losing bet by taking less than you made the movie for? Hoping for a “best case” scenario where you only lose a lot of money instead of a ton of money?

So your movie can play in theaters?

You can book that yourself.

So it can be distributed on DVD?

You can do that yourself.

So that it’s available on VOD?

You can make that happen, too.

That’s why we’ve made a big decision about Dying to do Letterman, and every movie we’ll make going forward:

Traditional Distribution is Plan B

We believe Dying to do Letterman has potential, or we wouldn’t have spent all these years (and our life savings) making it. This one movie means everything to us.

Distributors are in a different position. They have to risk capital to put movies into the world, and must spread that risk over many films. Some movies are “easier sells” than others. One movie might get off to a great start, and so a distributor knows they can focus their attention on that film, make it a success, and stay in business.

That film might not be your film.

Can you really blame the distributor if your movie gets less attention because one of the dozen others they’re handling gets some traction?

After all, they have families to feed, bills to pay, employees to care for. This is their business. They can’t possibly 100% guarantee your movie will get the support it needs because…

No One Cares About Your Movie As Much As You Do

Just the way it is.

No one on the face of the earth will obsess more, work harder, sacrifice greater to make sure your movie finds an audience than you.

It’s a brave new world for indie filmmakers, and your distribution plan is just as important as the filmmaking itself.

Why spend every bit of your soul making a movie no one will ever see? You care about your film more than any distributor should (and if you don’t, you should have made a different movie.)

You know what you need to do.

Think Outside the Box Office

It’s no secret that Jon’s book Think Outside the Box Office is a huge inspiration to us (it’s featured in the main video for our Kickstarter campaign.)

It’s a blueprint that proves you don’t have to be a slave to lousy offers and mountains of credit card debt. You can bring your movie to audiences with the same indie spirit it took to make the film int he first place.

So We Took The Leap

We decided to make Jon’s book our bible. We launched our kickstarter campaign with the goal of putting the movie in theaters ourselves.

Dying to do Letterman: Kickstarter for an Oscar® and Beyond from Joke and Biagio on Vimeo.

Less than halfway through our campaign, we’ve already raised close to $50,000…the high end of what we might have made going with that “traditional distribution” offer.

Granted, at the moment distribution is on our shoulders, and we’re doing a lot more hands-on-work to get our movie to our audience…but isn’t that the best part?

Proudly presenting your film to audiences everywhere?

Leverage

Plus, proving that an audience exists for your film, as well as a solid distribution plan, only helps convince potential distributors that your film is worthy of their attention should you decide to go that route.

Plan A

That’s why our plan A is to put the movie out ourselves. There’s no pressure to take a crappy deal. After all, by following the plan in Jon’s book, the film already has a distribution deal.

The one we’re giving it.

Plan B

If a distributor wants to come along and do better than what we can do ourselves, well, that’s a conversation worth having.

Until that time comes, we’re putting our film’s destiny where it belongs.

In our own hands.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*