On Thursday and Friday of this week (Oct 20-21) I will be at the Flyway Film Festival, presenting my two-day Think Outside the Box Office workshop on the ever-changing world of hybrid distribution and marketing. Today, though, I am thrilled to share a guest post from Chilean filmmaker Bernardo Palau whose first feature film ‘Saving You’ had a small theatrical release in Chile in November 2010 and is now available on iTunes. Here is his post:
PUTTING CHILEAN FILM ON THE MAP
By Bernardo Palau
I live in Chile — a long and thin land at the end of the world — at the southernmost point of South America. Chile is a country mainly known for its wines, the variety of its landscapes and its writers and poets like Isabel Allende, Pablo Neruda and Vicente Huidobro.
I say “mainly” because every day Chile is getting more and more known for a different kind of poet/storyteller: its filmmakers. Over the last few years many Chilean films have navigated the A-class film festival circuit, which has placed Chile on the map of world cinema in the eyes of the press.
Leaving aside the recently deceased Raoul Ruiz and his prolific filmography, many directors, including Sebastian Silva (‘The Maid’), Matias Bize (‘The life of the fish’), Pablo Larraín (‘Tony Manero’), Gonzalo Justiniano (‘B-Happy’), Sebastian Lelio (‘Christmas’), and others have created a lot of buzz at various international film festivals. But is that all there is to Chilean cinema?
No, actually. There are still a lot of Chilean films out there that the world doesn’t know about yet.
Allow me to explain: In Chile we have two major kind of films, the Public (or State) co-finance films, which have big budgets for our industry (normally between $500,000 and $2,000,000), enabling them to have a great festival presence around the world. On the other hand, we also have micro-budget guerrilla / garage films that work with small budgets, small crews and a lot of good will.
As you may suspect, there are lots of micro-budget films that don’t get into international film festivals. Some don’t fit the ‘festival type’ or are consider ‘too commercial’ for festivals, and others that just can’t afford to do a big festival circuit. They aren’t bad films; they just don’t have the cash.
But why do we care about showing our work outside of Chile? The answer is simple: we have a very small market. In fact, Chile represents just a tiny percentage of the international film market share, so in order to break even or turn a profit with your film you must explore other markets.
When I was developing my first feature film, ‘Saving You’ (‘Salvarte’), one of my biggest concerns was how could we reach our audience. We knew this was a small niche film that wasn’t going to be a blockbuster hit. As such, we knew that doing a ‘conventional’ theatrical 35mm release would be a big waste of time and money. It’s very hard to compete with Hollywood films that can spend twice your production budget on prints and advertising.
As we all know, the ‘old model’ of distribution is a hard path to follow without a bag full of money. So why not do things in a different way? Why not just focus more on making the film available for people online, instead of concentrating on film festivals. ‘Saving You’ seemed like the perfect chance to try online distribution. We had nothing to lose.
After having a small three week theatrical release with Blu-Ray copies and putting the film on DVD, VOD, and on two different paid streaming sites in Chile, we went directly to iTunes for US distribution. I’m proud to say we’re the first Chilean film on iTunes.
Answering my first question: Is this all there is to Chilean cinema? Definitely no, there’s much more. That’s why I invite you to watch ‘Saving You’ on iTunes.