Distribution. The proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that is your independent project. But instead of holding gold or a magically delicious assortment of yellow moons, pink hearts, and green clovers, this pot contains distributors with contracts, deals, and –most importantly—money. The dream of almost every microfilmmaker is to make enough of a profit to pay their cast and crew, get some better equipment, and make another, better film. We know it happens. We know by heart the legendary stories of Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, and Robert Rodriguez; we hold them up as the archetypal heroes of independent film, and aspire to achieve the same thing.
But it’s much harder now than it was ten or fifteen years ago. Independent film festivals have sprung up like kudzu across the U.S., with every filmmaker clamoring to be seen. Many of these filmmakers have “connections”; more of them have lots of cash; and then there are those that have both. But 80-90% of all films made in the U.S. fall into the microcinema category ($50,000 or less). How can microfilmmakers hope to compete against films with more money, connections, and star power? Well boys, the end of the rainbow just got a little closer…
The title pretty much says it all: this book is about the nitty-gritty of independent film distribution. Not independent like Sideways or Lost in Translation; there’s nothing wrong with those films, but these filmmakers have no trouble whatsoever getting people to notice their work. But for the filmmakers who really have to work hard to get any kind of attention (good or bad), the process of getting one’s film noticed is a complicated and intimidating one. It is for these true indie filmmakers that this book was written. From assessing your film and finding a “rep” to film festivals and distribution deals, Phil Hall guides you through the labyrinth of what you can do with your film after you’ve made it.
For as convoluted a topic as film distribution is, Hall does a wonderful job of breaking it down and explaining its various aspects. He takes the deductive approach, starting with an overview of Hollywood and independent film in general, then moves on to publicity, film festivals, self-distribution, and finally, direct-to-video distribution. He explains the characteristics of each, as well as its pros and cons. The topics flow smoothly from one to the next, and together with the interviews and the author’s concise yet casual writing style make this book very easy to read and understand.
Hall covers a lot of diverse ground in this book, but his task is made much easier with the contributions of the various filmmakers, producers, publicists, and distributors he interviews. Their experience gives this book an added insight it would not otherwise have; it takes the book beyond a mere explanatory “how-to” manual by showing the reality of what it takes to get your film noticed.
This is one of the most concise and easy-to-understand books on this topic that I have read. Hall’s writing style and the interviews make this an engaging book, while at the same time being very informative.
Unlike the other financial/distribution books I’ve reviewed, this one is not limited just to producers; directors will find the information in this book very helpful, if not essential. And while the director may not be the one sending the film out to festivals, publicists, etc. it will be a great asset to know what options are available for their movie. This is a book that I can honestly see most –if not all—of the executive crew (director, producer, exec. producer, etc.) coming back to for each project.
When you come across this in the bookstore or online, you might be put off by the $25 sticker on the back, and I will admit, it is a bit pricey for a paperback that’s not even 300 pages. But the amount of helpful information will save you a lot of time in the long run. And because this book specifically deals with ultra-low-budget indie film distribution, the suggestions and information are reasonable and realistic for microfilmmakers.
This book is definitely a good addition to the bookshelf of a microcinema director or producer. It is laid out in an easy-to-follow format that combines a depth of information with a casual, engaging style. And while I would like to see the price come down a bit, you will still get a lot of use from this book.