Last summer I signed on to produce a movie called Layover, an indie film I saw at the Seattle International Film Festival. I had a number of reasons for wanting to work on the film, but one of them was to learn the ins-and-outs of self-distribution, which is something that I felt was (and still is) a possible outcome for my own film, The Primary Instinct.

When Layover was self-released, we received placement in many high-profile online outlets (as well as a nice mention on the /Filmcast). The filmmakers, actors, and myself promoted the film heavily across social media. Combine all this with an asking price of $6 for a full HD digital download, and we had every reason to expect that the film would have a profitable run, especially given that the film’s budget was only $6,000. Were we right? How much money do you think our film made?

Now that some time has passed, we’ve had the opportunity to take stock and re-evaluate the effectiveness of our release strategy. After the jump, I will detail the plan we executed and tell you exactly how much revenue the film has earned.
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This year at the Seattle International Film Festival, I saw a movie called Layover, which tells the story of how a young Parisian named Simone gets stuck in LA on an extended layover and ends up learning more about her hopes and dreams than she had anticipated. Not only was I impressed with the film, I also loved the story of how filmmaker Joshua Caldwell put it together for about $6,000. Layover is a testament to what can be accomplished with a solid script, a strong directorial eye, a single Canon 5D Mark II camera, and sheer willpower.

In fact, I enjoyed the film so much that (full disclosure) I signed on to become a producer for it. And starting today, /Film readers and /Filmcast listeners can download the film, DRM-free, for $5.95.

One thing that I found particularly impressive about the film was an intense scene that takes place at a nightclub with Simone and her friend. How did Caldwell shoot this scene on such a limited budget? After the jump, see Caldwell’s exclusive video explanation of how he filmed the nightclub scene, and read an interview I did with Caldwell and his collaborators.
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Making a Movie” is a series of columns that chronicles our attempt to make, market, and distribute a film with Stephen Tobolowsky in 2014

I decided early on in making The Primary Instinct, that I would want to submit it to film festivals as parts of its roll-out strategy. Not only do festivals provide an amazing platform for publicity, word-of-mouth, and potential acquisition, but I also love the culture there. From the few festivals I’ve been to (Sundance, SIFF, IFFboston), I’ve always felt like the air is electric with anticipation and excitement for quality cinema. It would be a huge honor to be a part of that in some way.

But submitting to film festivals is no easy task. There are pages and pages and pages of rules (much of which I’m guessing is meant to weed out those who don’t follow directions exactly), and tons of documentation is required. After the jump, you’ll find a few things I learned about the festival submission process.
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Making a Movie: Five Things I Wish I’d Known

MakingaMovie (1 of 1)

Making a Movie” is a series of columns that chronicles our attempt to make, market, and distribute a film with Stephen Tobolowsky in 2014

It’s been an intensely busy summer as I’ve struggled to keep up with my full-time job, my podcasts, and my film. But we are now closing in on the finish line. The official submission deadline for Sundance, our first desired festival, was August 29th, and we mailed a nearly-finished version of our film in just in time. A few color and sound issues remain to be finalized, but otherwise The Primary Instinct is 99.9% done, and almost ready for submission to a bunch of other festivals in the weeks to come.

As I look back on the past few months, there are a bunch of things I wish I’d done differently. As one indie producer put it to me, there is a steep learning curve for independent filmmaking, but it gets easier every time. Unfortunately, this was my first time, but hopefully some of you can learn from my mistakes. After the jump, you’ll find a few things I wish I’d known going into this whole process. These things will be obvious to anyone who’s made a film, but for me, they were a learning experience.
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Making a Movie: Distributing a Niche Documentary


Making a Movie” is a series of columns that chronicles our attempt to make, market, and distribute a film with Stephen Tobolowsky in 2014

A lot of people have asked me how we’re planning to distribute the film we’re making with Stephen Tobolowsky this year. The film is shaping up to be some hybrid between a documentary and a concert film, and it may only appeal to a very specific audience. But my personal hope is to go the film festival route and get picked up for distribution from there. If that doesn’t work, there are plenty of options for self-distribution, including Vimeo on Demand and VHX.

I’m always eager to learn from those who have traveled the path that I’m trying to go on myself. And by coincidence, I recently received an e-mail from Adam Roffman  (the former program director of the excellent Independent Film Festival of Boston) mentioning that a film he produced, Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself, was going to be airing on PBS this Friday. That film is a documentary about a really interesting figure whose brilliance deserved further exploration (sound familiar?).

After appearing at 20-some festivals, Plimpton! did a limited theatrical release with a small distributor called Laemmle-Zeller (owner of the Laemmle theater chain in LA). The film received a DVD distribution deal and was supposed to go onto DVD this past October, but in early September, they got an offer to air on PBS and thus delayed the DVD release. I wanted to know more about how a film like this gets made, seen, and distributed, so Adam connected me with the film’s director, Luke Poling, who chatted with me over e-mail. See his answers to my questions after the jump.
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Making a Movie: Tech Rehearsal


Making a Movie” is a series of columns that chronicles our attempt to make, market, and distribute a film with Stephen Tobolowsky in 2014

Last night was our tech rehearsal and full run-through for the concert film we’re shooting with Stephen Tobolowsky. We had a documentary crew on-site to shoot an official “making of” short film, but I also threw together a quick video on my Panasonic GH4 just to give you some idea of the complexity of what we’re attempting this evening. You can find this video after the jump.

You can still buy tickets for tonight’s show. Hope to see some of you there!
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UPDATE: I made a mistake on which cameras will be our primary cameras. They are actually Sony HSC-100’s. I’ve updated the post below.

Making a Movie” is a series of columns that chronicles our attempt to make, market, and distribute a film with Stephen Tobolowsky in 2014

We’re just a few days away from our live performance of The Tobolowsky Files at the Moore Theatre, and its accompanying film shoot. Sales are going briskly, but if you’re local to Seattle, I hope you’ll find the time to buy some tickets and join us on Saturday.

I’ve performed with Stephen several times already and it’s always been a great experience. But setting up these live shows, advertising them, and getting butts in seats has always been quite a challenge. This time around, we’re actually adding an HD multi-cam shoot to it, exponentially increasing the complexity of the event. Hit the jump to learn more about how we plan to pull this off.
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Making a Movie: How to Build a Kickstarter

Primary Instinct

Making a Movie” is a series of columns that chronicles our attempt to make, market, and distribute a film with Stephen Tobolowsky in 2014

Thanks to you guys, we met our Kickstarter goal in just 12 days. Our Kickstarter project now has just a few hours left to go (you can still back us by clicking here), but we are well into pre-production for our upcoming shoot.

Our Kickstarter project took me roughly six weeks of work to create. Looking back, there are a lot of things I would’ve done differently. After the jump, I share some learnings I’ve had throughout this process. I also had the chance to chat with Cesar Kuriyama and Matt Reynolds, both of whom had great success with their respective Kickstarter projects. Cesar successfully funded his 1SecondEveryday app and Matt got his film, The Great Chicken Wing Huntfinanced. A podcast recording of our chat can be found below.
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Making a Movie” is a series of columns that chronicles our attempt to make, market, and distribute a film with Stephen Tobolowsky in 2014. Our Kickstarter is still live and you can support our film project by going here.

I set out to make a movie with Stephen Tobolowsky this year because I realized that I had a healthy working relationship with one of the greatest character actors of all time, and I had a job that allows me to be relatively free for most weekends (thus giving me the free time to develop/shoot the footage we might need to assemble a film). Initially, my plan was to teach myself how to shoot and edit video to the point where Stephen and I could just make the film ourselves. While I’ve made some progress on that front, I quickly realized that even if I did get good at these things, I’d still need a crapton of help to make the type of movie I wanted to. So I decided we needed to work with a production company to make this movie happen.

The company we’re now working with, Super Frog Saves Tokyo, embodies everything we want in a production house. They are small, scrappy, internet-savvy, and they know how to put together great videos. After the jump, see a teaser trailer they made for our upcoming Kickstarter film. Note that this was not made using Kickstarter funds, but by Super Frog as a fun creative exercise in how we might position/market the film.
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