From everything I've heard, Sundance this year was a bit different. It was still celebration of the indie film but what was great was the distribution deals. Yeah, you read that right. Indie films got distribution deals. Perhaps you're thinking: "But, Tonya, it's Sundance. It's a festival dedicated to the independent film. Of course, indie films got some deals" and you'd be right. Here's the difference: the number of deals and the fact the they made sense for filmmakers.
Don't get me wrong. The films had to be exceptional with a clear target audience. Distributors were looking for films that had majority of the work done for them. Great script. Great acting. Beautifully shot. And, most importantly, laser focused on a specific audience. Why is this important? It's makes marketing a film much easier and way more affordable.
This is something I've been an advocate for since I started producing and looking at possible scripts to film. When I read something, I go through it a few times, looking for different things each time. First, I make sure that I just plain old like it. If I don't get involved in the story, it's more than likely no one else will either. On the next reading, I start formulating an idea of who is going to watch it and letting that add to the tone of the script. Something geared for teenagers looks way different on screen then something made for women aged 25 to 40. On the third go through, I start thinking marketing and different ways of selling the film. This could include merchandise, events, and how to introduce the film to my intended audience.
Then I start the math. Yes, math. I may be an artist first and foremost but when I wear my producer hat, I look at numbers. Luckily, it's mostly just adding and subtracting with only a few ratios thrown in. If I can't figure out how to make a film profitable, how can I possibly convince anyone with money that they should invest? Maybe I'm just too honest a person but I just don't feel right asking people to throw their money away.
And after all that fun is done, the work really begins in trying to get someone, anyone, everyone interested enough in the project to lend a hand. That could include investing or just committing to work on set. This takes years. Seriously. "Good Will Hunting" took ten years to get into production because of Matt and Ben's determination to star. They needed to get a name attached to make the film so it took years of shopping it around before a little actor by the name of Robin Williams signed on. And movie history was made.
Filmmaking and the entire entertainment biz is a risky one. But if we do our best to eliminate the risks we have some control over and prepare for as many eventualities as we can, it is possible to get a film made that is artistic, stunning, and profitable--otherwise known as distributable. Thanks Sundance, for renewing my faith.